Leaders urge action over nuclear threat

Leaders urge action over nuclear threat

Leaders urge action over nuclear threat

Turkish PM Erdoğan (1st from left in the second row), US President Obama (3rd from left in front row) and South Korean President Lee (4th from left in front row) wave along with other leaders during a group photo session for the nuclear summit in Seoul. AP Photo

World leaders called yesterday for strong steps to combat nuclear terrorism, wrapping up the 53-nation summit overshadowed by North Korea’s planned rocket launch.

“Today we have set a new milestone in making the world a safer and more peaceful place,” South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak, who hosted the summit, said at the end of the two-day event. The leaders from 53 nations - including Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, U.S. President Barack Obama, China’s Hu Jintao, Russia’s Dmitri Medvedev - called in a joint communiqué for steps to minimize civilian use of highly enriched uranium (HEU), which can be used to make bombs.

They also called for the safeguarding of world stockpiles of HEU and plutonium, and tightening security of radioactive material that could be used to create a “dirty” bomb. “Nuclear terrorism continues to be one of the most challenging threats to international security,” Agence France-Presse reported the leaders as saying. “Defeating this threat requires strong national measures and international cooperation.” The statement also urged all countries to accede to international conventions on protecting fissile material, and reaffirmed the central role of the UN’s atomic watchdog. North Korea’s nuclear and missile ambitions were not officially on the agenda, but they were the focus on the sidelines.

Reaction from Pyongyang

The North stole some of the limelight right up to the end, releasing a statement just before the close of the summit snubbing demands from Obama and other leaders to scrap a satellite launch planned for April. A satellite launch to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of founding President Kim Il-sung had been ordered by his son and successor Kim Jong-il, who died last year.

The U.S. leader had stressed his country was not hostile to the North’s people, but was scathing about its leaders’ record and urged them to “have the courage to pursue peace.” North Korea responded by announcing it would go ahead with what it calls a peaceful satellite launch and told Obama to drop his “confrontational mindset.”

“The U.S. head of state said he had no hostile intention towards us,” said a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman. “If that remark is genuine, he should abandon the confrontational mindset that tries to block us and have the courage to admit that we have as much right to launch our satellite as other countries do.”

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