N Korea, Iran to loom large over nuclear summit

2012-03-24 08:29
Seoul - World leaders including US President Barack Obama on Monday will launch a summit on the threat from nuclear-armed terrorists, but the atomic ambitions of North Korea and Iran are set to feature heavily.

North Korea's upcoming rocket launch has overshadowed the run-up to the two-day meeting in Seoul, which seeks agreement on locking down fissile material that could be used to build thousands of terrorist bombs.

Obama will hold talks on the launch plan and other issues with leaders of China, Russia and host South Korea during his visit.
The nuclear-armed North says its rocket will merely put a peaceful satellite into orbit. The United States and others believe next month's launch will test a long-range missile which could one day deliver an atomic warhead.

Gary Samore, coordinator for arms control at the US National Security Council, warned that North Korea would face a "strong response" from Washington and its allies if it goes ahead with the launch.

"We will be working with other countries, when President Obama is here (in Seoul), to try to discourage North Korea from going ahead with the proposed satellite launch," he told South Korea's Yonhap news agency on Friday.

Leaders or senior officials from 53 nations will attend the Nuclear Security Summit, with Interpol, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the European Union and the UN also taking part.

The IAEA, while worried about nuclear proliferation by North Korea, also suspects that Iran is bent on making nuclear weapons. Iran says its uranium enrichment activities are peaceful.

Neither Iran nor North Korea are on the formal agenda in Seoul.

But leaders of five nations involved in stalled nuclear negotiations with the North - the United States, South Korea, China, Russia and Japan - will all be present, offering an opportunity for consultations.

Pyongyang sees the summit as a chance for Washington and Seoul to gang up on it. Any South Korean move to address the North's nuclear programme at the summit would be seen as a declaration of war, it has vowed.

Seoul says the formal event is not about nations but "non-state actors".

Obama in a 2009 speech described nuclear terrorism as "the most immediate and extreme threat to global security".
He announced a drive to secure all vulnerable nuclear material worldwide within four years, a process which led to the first nuclear security summit in Washington in April 2010.

A joint report by the Washington-based Arms Control Association (ACA) and the Partnership for Global Security (PGS), which campaign against nuclear proliferation, acknowledged major progress since then.

Read more on:    iran  |  north korea  |  nuclear  |  iran nuclear programme
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