S. Korean officials in high gear for nuclear security summit in March

February 23, 2012 11:41 am 

SEOUL, Feb. 23 — With the Nuclear Security Summit about a month away, South Korean officials have entered an "all-out preparation mode" to successfully host the global summit aimed at bolstering international safeguards and preventing nuclear terrorism, organizers said on Thursday.

Top leaders from 53 nations and four international organizations, including U.S. President Barack Obama, Chinese President Hu Jintao and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, will attend the March 26-27 summit. It will be the second since Obama launched the summit in Washington in 2010, with top leaders from 47 nations attending.

Azerbaijan, Denmark, Gabon, Hungary, Lithuania and Romania are on the list of new participants, a senior official at the preparatory secretariat said.

"The focus of discussions will be on how to translate the agreements reached at the 2010 Washington Nuclear Security Summit into concrete actions," the official said on the condition of anonymity.

"Furthermore, in the context of strengthening nuclear security, nuclear safety — a major issue raised in the international community following the Fukushima accident — will be discussed, focusing on its nexus with nuclear security," he said.

Seoul officials said one of the key topics at the Seoul summit would be how to protect vulnerable radioactive materials worldwide so terrorists could not use them to make a crude nuclear bomb.

Other key agenda to be discussed in Seoul will include "practical and concrete" ways to prevent the threat of nuclear terrorism and ensure the safety of atomic energy, they said.

Negotiators from the 53 nations have been in last-minute discussions to set agenda for the Seoul summit and the text of a so-called "Seoul Communique" that will be announced at the end of the summit.

On Friday, Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik will convene a government-wide meeting to check final preparations for the summit, including agenda, security and the protocol of visits by the global leaders.

Security is a major concern for South Korea, which has been technically in a state of war with the communist North Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an uneasy cease-fire, not a peace treaty.

This week, North Korea denounced the South's hosting of the upcoming summit as an "intolerable grave provocation."

About 40,000 South Korean police officers as well as an unidentified number of troops will be mobilized during the summit to guard against possible provocations by North Korea or terrorists, officials said.

Meanwhile, organizers said U.S. first lady Michelle Obama is expected to make her first visit to South Korea next month when she accompanies her husband.

"Many first ladies, including Michelle Obama, are expected to visit South Korea for next month's Nuclear Security Summit," the official said. "Since the event for world leaders' spouses is another venue for diplomacy, we will make major efforts to prepare."

Seoul officials said that the Netherlands has agreed to host the third Nuclear Security Summit in 2014. At the Seoul summit, South Korea will likely formally name the Netherlands as the host for the next summit. (PNA/Yonhap) FPV/ebp

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