‘Summit will heighten the political will to fight nuclear terrorism,’ envoy says

This story appeared originally in The Korea Times on Martch 13, 2012 as the 10th in a series of interviews I did with ambassadors from countries participating in the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit which occured on March 26-27.

By Philip Iglauer

Spanish Ambassador to South Korea Luis Arias-Romero
Spanish Ambassador to South Korea Luis Arias-Romero

Spain believes the coming nuclear summit could best serve as a catalyst to heighten the international community’s political will in its fight against nuclear terrorism.

“The biggest commitment we need is a true political will at the highest levels,” said Spanish Ambassador Luis Arias-Romero in an email interview with The Korea Times. “We are touching a very sensitive area for states, so that level of confidence is needed.”

Leaders of more than 50 nations and international organizations will convene here for the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit on March 26 and 27. This is the second global gathering of world leaders to tackle ways to prevent nuclear and radiological materials from ever falling into the hands of terrorists, criminal gangs or other non-state groups. They first met in 2010 in Washington, D.C.

Spain sees the summit as a means of enhancing nuclear commitments already made to existing international regimes and organizations, such as the Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

“We know the value of developing and consolidating a global architecture on nuclear security as a means to channel international cooperation and to help others to create and develop strong national capacities,” Arias-Romero said.

He said that is why Spain actively participates in the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, an international initiative of more than 80 countries set up to fight nuclear terrorism. Launched in 2006, it has since inspired the current nuclear security summit process.

“We think this objective in the Seoul summit is very important,” he said. Arias-Romero said that Spain is contributing to the IAEA’s Nuclear Security Fund because it is important to enhance the role and resources of the international atomic watch dog organization.

Nuclear Summit Logo 2012

Nuclear safety has since become a huge issue for many of the nations participating in the summit, since a tsunami that slammed into Japan’s northern coast at Fukushima and caused a massive nuclear accident.

Arias-Romero said nuclear security and safety are two side of the same coin. “After the Fukushima nuclear accident, we have to develop a comprehensive approach to nuclear security and nuclear safety as mutually reinforcing and complementary,” he said.

He said that since that accident, the nuclear plants in Spain have “undergone additional evaluations and the levels and requirements of safety and security have increased as a result.”

With eight active plants, nuclear energy accounts for 20 percent of Spain’s energy needs. The nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea are on the minds of every participant, although the two nations’ nuclear programs are not officially on the agenda of the Seoul summit.

Arias-Romero said Iran must comply with its safeguard agreements and other obligations as an NPT signatory.

Iran, though a signatory to the NPT, was not invited to participate in the summit, according to the Iranian Embassy in Seoul.

Israel, Pakistan and India, which are not signatories to the NPT and possess nuclear weapons, are participating in the Seoul summit.

“The IAEA has a basic role to play in supervising their commitments from the NPT, so that there is a complete confidence in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, without any deviation to undeclared or non peaceful uses,” he said.

“This is basic in the case of Iran, and we have to thank the IAEA for their continuous efforts to develop a structured negotiating process with Iran to solve all outstanding issues on the nature of its nuclear program and to commit Iran to comply fully and without preconditions with its international obligations.”

In the case of North Korea, which withdrew from the NPT in 2003, Arias-Romero only said that Spain looks forward to the return of the IAEA inspectors to the North’s Yongbyon nuclear facility as soon as possible.

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