World leaders in drive to bolster nuclear security at Hague summit

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 March, 2014, 9:09pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 March, 2014, 4:54am

Thirty-five countries committed to bolstering nuclear security yesterday, backing a global drive spearheaded by US President Barack Obama to prevent dangerous materials falling into the hands of terrorists.

In a joint statement issued on the sidelines of the third biennial Nuclear Security Summit, the countries pledged to work closer together and submit to "peer reviews periodically" of their sensitive nuclear security regimes.

The nations - including Israel, Kazakhstan, Morocco and Turkey but not Russia - vowed to "realise or exceed" the standards set out in a series of guidelines laid down by the International Atomic Energy Agency to safeguard nuclear materials.

These are the "closest things we have to international standards for nuclear security", US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz told reporters as he presented the pledge.

Obama has made improving nuclear safety one of the foreign policies of his presidency. He said in 2009 that nuclear terrorism was "the most immediate and extreme threat to global security".

Frans Timmermans, foreign minister of the Netherlands, which is hosting the summit of more than 50 countries, acknowledged that nuclear security had to remain a "national responsibility" but said closer international co-operation could be "a direct contribution in preventing nuclear material becoming a security risk".

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, opening the two-day talks on Monday, said there was "almost 2,000 tonnes of weapons-usable material in circulation worldwide" and stressed that "security has to be our constant concern".

Analysts hailed the joint pledge but voiced concern that not all countries had signed up, notably Russia, with its outstanding stockpile of Soviet-era weapons.

Shin Chang-hoon, analyst at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in South Korea, highlighted the peer review commitment in the pledge as "an important part of nuclear security".

"This will probably be the legacy of the [Nuclear Security Summit], more than the final communiqué," he added.