World Leaders to Continue Efforts to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism

Posted March 27th, 2012 at 1:35 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders called Tuesday for strong steps to fight the threat of nuclear terrorism, wrapping up a 53-nation summit overshadowed by North Korea's planned missile launch.

In a final statement from the South Korean capital, the leaders — including Chinese President Hu Jintao and Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani — called for steps to curtail civilian use of highly enriched uranium — a key component in nuclear weaponry. Earlier Tuesday, President Obama said the international community must make “a serious and sustained effort” to reduce the world's nuclear weapon stockpiles.

“There are still too many bad actors in search of these dangerous materials, and these dangerous materials are still vulnerable in too many places. It would not take much, just a handful or so of these materials to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people, and that's not an exaggeration, that's the reality that we face.”

The final statement did not offer details of curtailment steps and did not mention nearby North Korea or its planned mid-April missile launch. But Pyongyang's launch announcement — widely seen outside the North as a pretext for testing long-range ballistic missiles banned under United Nations' sanctions — was the subject of wide-ranging talks on the summit sidelines.

South Korean Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik, who coordinates Seoul's policy toward the North, said summit attendees clearly spelled out requests for Pyongyang to scrap its missile launch plans.

The Summit host, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, said it was not appropriate for the North to pursue such projects while its people suffer from severe food shortages.

In a statement Tuesday, North Korea's Foreign Ministry defended the planned launch, which it says is aimed at commemorating the 100th birthday of founding leader Kim Il Sung.

The threatened launch comes as U.S. officials mull a decision made earlier this year to ship 240,000 metric tons of emergency food supplies to the impoverished North. Neither President Obama nor other U.S. officials have said whether the shipments will go forward if the North Korean launch takes place.