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Lee stresses N. Korea's nuclear threats in global summit

All Headlines 09:00 April 13, 2010

By Lee Chi-dong

WASHINGTON, April 12 (Yonhap) -- The largest-ever gathering of world leaders on nuclear security opened here Monday night, as South Korean President Lee Myung-bak used the first-day session to emphasize the "direct nuclear threats" from communist neighbor North Korea.

During the 90-minute dinner hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama for fellow leaders, Lee said South Korea is "more concerned about nuclear weapons threats than any other nation as it is directly exposed to North Korea's nuclear threats," according to Lee's office, Cheong Wa Dae.

Cheong Wa Dae officials described the dinner as the first of the four parts in the two-day summit. which has attracted the heads of state from more than 40 countries and the representatives from the U.N., IAEA, and the EU.

Participants took turns to make opening remarks during the dinner focused on "reviewing the threats of nuclear terrorism and discussing response."

The unprecedented summit, initiated by Obama, is aimed at solidifying international cooperation in efforts to secure the use of atomic energy and prevent nuclear materials from falling into the hands of terrorists.

The participating leaders agreed that nuclear terror is the "most substantial threat" facing the contemporary mankind, Cheong Wa Dae said.

Lee pointed out that atomic power is a double-edged sword, as it can be beneficial if used peacefully as clean energy but can also cause a catastrophe if turned into weapons.

"With regard to the North Korean nuclear issue, President Lee stressed that the (South Korean) government is making active efforts to prevent North Korea from possessing nuclear weapons on the basis of cooperation among the member countries in the six-way talks," his office said.

North Korea conducted two underground nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009 but the international community does not recognize it as a nuclear power.

The reclusive nation withdrew from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 2003. The six-party talks also involving the U.S., China, Russia, and Japan have been long stalled due to the North's refusal to join a new round. North Korea has not been invited to the nuclear summit.

Prior to the dinner session, the South Korean president had a series of meetings with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, crown prince of the United Arab Emirates.

Earlier in the day, Lee laid a wreath at the Korean War Veterans Memorial on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the 1950-53 conflict. Lee then met with a group of U.S. veterans of the war, who formed part of the 1.79 million-strong American force sent to fight alongside the South against invading North Korean forces during the 1950-1953 conflict.

"Thanks to your life-risking fight, South Korea could protect its freedom and democracy and develop like this from poverty," Lee said. "As president of South Korea and on behalf of all of our people, I always thank you and I would like say that we never forget you."

He added South Korea and the U.S. maintains a "very perfect and strong alliance than any other time."

lcd@yna.co.kr
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