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Lee heads to U.S. for nuclear security summit

All Headlines 17:00 April 11, 2010

By Lee Chi-dong

SEOUL, April 11 (Yonhap) -- President Lee Myung-bak left for Washington Sunday to attend an inaugural summit on nuclear security, where he plans to stress the need for an early resolution to the North Korean nuclear crisis and promote South Korea's advanced non-military nuclear technology.

The two-day meeting of leaders from more than 40 nations as well as the U.N., IAEA and the EU will open on Monday under the initiative of U.S. President Barack Obama.

"The goals of the Nuclear Security Summit are to come to a common understanding of the threat posed by nuclear terrorism, to agree to effective measures to secure nuclear material, and to prevent nuclear smuggling and terrorism," the U.S. State Department had said.

The summit was uplifted by the signing of a landmark deal last week between the U.S. and Russia to limit the number of nuclear warheads to 1,550 each over seven years from the current 2,200.

South Korean officials said Lee's participation in the event will help expand Seoul's alliance with Washington on the global nuclear issue.

"It is expected to serve as a chance for a closer partnership between South Korea and the U.S. on the issue beyond the traditional security alliance on the Korean Peninsula," a senior presidential aide said in a background briefing for reporters.

The president will also explain Seoul's position on how to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis, he added, although the summit is not expected to address it in detail.

Lee also plans to use the Washington summit to reaffirm South Korea's commitment to the peaceful use of its nuclear program and promote its technology. South Korea began operating its first commercial nuclear reactor in 1978 and now has 20 nuclear power plants across the country that provide nearly 40 percent of its total energy demands. There have been no major accidents at the facilities, and South Korea has become a nuclear technology exporter by striking a US$20-billion deal with the United Arab Emirates last year for the construction of four reactors.

The Nuclear Security Summit will also allow Seoul to strengthen its network and leadership role in the international community ahead of the hosting of the G-20 summit in November, the official said.

The summit participants are expected to issue a joint communique to sum up the results of their discussions and a work plan.

While in Washington, Lee will visit the Korean War Veterans Memorial to pay homage to U.S. soldiers who died in the 1950-53 Korean War and meet a group of veterans there who took part in the war.

Lee canceled previously scheduled visits to Mexico and Haiti on his way back as his government is in the middle of an investigation into the sinking of a naval warship near the tense sea border with North Korea last month.

He will return on Wednesday.


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