Zuma attending global Nuclear Security Summit


President Jacob Zuma will attend a Nuclear Security Summit to be held in Washington DC in the United States this Monday and Tuesday.

The summit has been convened by US President Barack Obama in the context of his policy announcement on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation made in Prague this week, which identifies nuclear terrorism as the “most immediate and extreme threat to global security”.

Zuma’s office says he will lead a delegation that includes Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister of Energy Dipuo Peters, Minister of State Security Siyabonga Cwele and senior government officials.

The goals of the Nuclear Security Summit, to which 43 countries have been invited, are to reach a common understanding of the threat posed by nuclear terrorism and to agree to effective measures to secure nuclear material and to prevent nuclear smuggling and terrorism, the Presidency adds. The Summit is expected to adopt a communique and work plan.
“South Africa welcomes the summit as an opportunity for countries to pool their resources and work together through strengthened multilateral institutions to combat all forms of organised transnational crime, including terrorism. South Africa has consistently condemned acts of terrorism and shares the international community’s concern over nuclear security,” Zuma’s office says in a statement.
“South Africa has also in the past pledged its support for the global campaign against terrorism within the framework of international law and the United Nations and its structures.”

Obama meanwhile yesterday signed a new nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia in a move Reuters reports has stopped the deterioration in Russian-US relations. “Together, we have stopped that drift,” Obama said after he and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the new pact that will cut their arsenals by about a third.

Missile defences

The US leader afterwards met leaders of NATO allies in central and eastern Europe to soothe fears that better US relations with Russia might mean weaker security links with the former Soviet satellites. Obama hosted a dinner for the 11 leaders in Prague where he told them the deal is a key part in his drive for disarmament and “resetting” relations with Moscow.

White House officials said Washington’s relationships with Moscow and those with central and east European countries should not be viewed as a zero-sum game. “This notion that somehow if we work with Russia that’s to the disadvantage of our allies, like the Czech Republic, that’s absolutely absurd,” Michael McFaul, a senior Russia adviser to Obama, said in the Czech capital.

Former Soviet bloc countries believe that a strong bond with the United States is vital for their security. But the US rapprochement with Moscow and the Obama administration’s decision last year to scrap plans to build elements of a missile defence shield in the Czech Republic and Poland have led to some suspicion that their links with Washington may be weakening. Czech President Vaclav Klaus said before the dinner that he trusted the US assurances.

Under a revamped plan, Obama’s administration wants to deploy different missile interceptors in Romania and Bulgaria. NATO has been urging alliance members to back a common missile defense shield and has called on them to agree on the plan at a summit in November, but France has raised doubts about raising funds for the system.

Conference aimed at Iran, North Korea?

Reuters, calling the meeting “unprecedented” reports that although the gathering will not focus on individual nations, the nuclear programmes of Iran and North Korea – and possible new UN sanctions against Tehran – are expected to come up in Obama’s bilateral meetings with Chinese President Hu Jintao and other leaders.

Hu’s decision to attend the summit, Western diplomats said, was a major victory for Obama, since it indicates that Beijing does not want bilateral tensions over Taiwan and other issues to cripple Sino-US relations and cooperation on other key security and foreign policy topics.

A draft communiqué circulated to countries attending the summit, the contents of which were described to Reuters, includes a US proposal to “secure all vulnerable nuclear material in four years.” The draft text will likely be revised before it is adopted at the end of the meeting.

Analysts and Western diplomats say the significance of the summit meeting — one of the biggest of its kind in Washington since World War Two — goes far beyond its official agenda. “Too many people see nuclear security as a narrow technical issue of concern only to those most fearful of nuclear terrorism,” Ian Kearns of British American Security Information Council said in a report.
“If leaders at the summit get it right, they could render nuclear power safer to use in the fight against climate change, strengthen the non-proliferation regime, and build further international confidence in … nuclear disarmament,” said Kearns, who is an adviser to Britain’s parliamentary committee on national security. In addition to China’s Hu, attendees include Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Also represented will be India and Pakistan, which never signed the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty but have atomic arsenals. Israel is another NPT holdout that is presumed to have atomic weapons but has never confirmed or denied it. The inclusion of Pakistan, diplomats say, is important since it is one of the countries that has pledged to improve its internal safeguards. Disgraced Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan was the kingpin of an illicit atomic network that provided atomic technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya.

Two nations excluded from the meeting are Iran, which the United States and its Western allies accuse of pursuing nuclear weapons, and North Korea, which withdrew from the NPT in 2003 and has twice detonated nuclear devices despite its promise to abandon its atomic programmes. Both are under UN sanctions. Also not attending is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who decided to stay home when he heard Egypt and Turkey would criticise Israel’s nuclear weapons in their speeches, an Israeli official said.

Joe Cirincione, a professor at Georgetown University and head of the Ploughshares Fund anti-nuclear arms group, said the plan to secure nuclear materials worldwide within four years could substantially boost global security. “If they follow through, this strategy could effectively prevent nuclear terrorism by stopping radicals from getting the one part of the bomb they cannot make themselves,” he said. But Cirincione wants to see if the final communiqué is “more than a two-page press release, if the action plan has real targets and real deadlines, if key nations pledge to secure their weapons material within four years, and if the states agree to meet again in two years to assess progress.”

On the agenda are plans to join together a disparate group of countries with nuclear programmes to gather up dangerous atomic material from vulnerable nuclear, defence and medical sites worldwide, something Russia and the United States have been doing with the aid of the UN atomic watchdog for years. If successful, the summit can send a strong signal to the world that the international community is united in boosting nuclear security and that Washington is taking a leading role.

The White House on Tuesday also unveiled a new policy that restricts US use of nuclear weapons, while sending a stern warning to Iran and North Korea that they remain potential targets. Reversing the position of the former US administration, the so-called Nuclear Posture Review also said Washington would not develop any new atomic weapons.

Analysts said the combination of the U.S. nuclear policy, the success of Obama and Medvedev in agreeing a new treaty committing them to reducing their atomic arsenals, and a productive nuclear summit could help set the stage for a successful gathering of NPT signatories in New York next month to find ways to overhaul the 40-year-old arms pact. They add the NPT has been battered by North Korea’s withdrawal, Iran’s insistence on pursing nuclear technology that could help it make bombs and developing nations’ charges that big nuclear powers are ignoring disarmament commitments.