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(LEAD) S. Korea's 2nd nuke summit hosting to pressure N. Korea: experts

All Headlines 07:17 April 14, 2010

(ATTN: ADDS remarks by expert in paras 5,16,17)
By Hwang Doo-hyong

WASHINGTON, April 13 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's hosting of the second nuclear security summit in 2012 will put pressure on North Korea, which has been defying international efforts to dismantle its nuclear weapons program through multilateral talks, experts said Tuesday.

"It also puts more international pressure on North Korea to change course on the nuclear issue," David Straub, associate director at the Korean Studies Program at the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, Stanford University, said.

In an apparent warning to North Korea, 47 world leaders at the inaugural nuclear summit here unanimously approved South Korea's plan Tuesday to host the second summit in the first half of 2012.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said he would welcome North Korea to the summit if progress is made in six-party talks on the North's denuclearization, which have been deadlocked over U.N. sanctions for its nuclear and missile tests early last year. The summit will focus on keeping loose nuclear materials from terrorist groups.

Washington "intends to use the choice of South Korea as a venue to emphasize the administration's view that North Korea is one of the top nuclear outlaw states, along with Iran," said Denny Roy, senior fellow at the East-West Center, Honolulu.

"Choosing South Korea as the next host allows President Lee to refocus world attention back onto the North Korean nuclear threat," Bruce Klingner, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said. "By reminding the summit participants of the threat Seoul faces from the North, Lee hopes to energize international efforts to resolve the issue, either through negotiations or stronger sanctions."

Scott Snyder, director of the Center for U.S.-Korea Policy at the Asia Foundation, agreed.

"A summit in South Korea may also place the spotlight on North Korea's position outside the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and on the fact that North Korea's nuclear efforts have isolated it from opportunities to gain respect from the international community," Snyder said.

North Korea bolted from the NPT in 2003 and conducted nuclear tests twice in 2006 and 2009 each.

Pyongyang said last week that the Obama administration's new nuclear policy has undermined the atmosphere for the resumption of the six-party talks, involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia. It threatened to bolster its nuclear weapons and modernize them as a deterrent against an attack from the U.S.

The Obama administration last week renounced the use of nuclear weapons on non-nuclear weapons states in compliance with international nonproliferation obligations, and signed a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia to reduce their deployed strategic warheads by one-third to 1,500 from 2,200 and significantly cut missiles and launchers.

The U.S., however, left open the possibility of a nuclear attack on North Korea and Iran.

Obama's new nuclear initiative came amid Pyongyang having recently set a precondition for its return to the nuclear talks by calling for lifting of sanctions and start of talks for a peace treaty to officially replace the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War. Washington insists that Pyongyang come back to the nuclear talks first.

Seoul's hosting of the second nuclear summit will enhance not only its global leadership but also Lee's personal ties with Obama, experts said.

"The decision reflects the Republic of Korea's increasing global role, the deepening of U.S.-South Korean relations, and the solid personal relationship between Presidents Obama and Lee," Straub said. "The ROK's hosting of the summit will, in turn, further enhance the ROK's global standing and the U.S.-ROK alliance." ROK is South Korea's official name, the Republic of Korea.

Roy of the East-West Center discusses South Korea's emerging role as an international mediator.

"This is another success in South Korea's drive toward international prominence and prestige," he said. "It is becoming a country that is respected without carrying the baggage of a great power, a country that others rely on to broker international issues."

Snyder said that the second summit in Seoul "will provide an opportunity for South Korea to show leadership on an issue critical to global security."

The Seoul summit is in line with Lee's quest for going "Global Korea."

"President Lee's 'Global Korea' initiative reflects a realization that South Korea has come of age economically, politically and militarily, and therefore, should adopt additional responsibilities in addressing international challenges," Klingner said. "Although the populace remains conflicted about whether Seoul should remain regionally focused or set broader horizons, Lee is trying to extend the the confort zone in order for South Korea to be seen as a Tier 1 country."

Obama recently suggested to Lee in a phone call that Seoul consider hosting the biennial nuclear security summit, according to Seoul officials, in a show of close solidarity between the two leaders.

Obama has also strongly supported Lee's push to play the host of the G-20 economic summit in November.

South Korea's hosting of the next nuclear summit will also likely help Seoul to emerge as a strong contender in the international market for construction of nuclear power plants.

South Korea won for the first time a US$20 billion contract in December to build four nuclear reactors for the United Arab Emirates.

"South Korea's nuclear power exports should benefit, but hosting of the event will also require South Korea to consider more carefully its views on the reprocessing or recycling of its own spent nuclear fuel," Straub said.

The scholar was discussing South Korea's hopes to adopt pyroprocessing technology, which is considered to be less conducive to proliferation because it leaves separated plutonium, the main ingredient in making atomic bombs, mixed with other elements.

Washington fears South Korea's reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel might undermine global nonproliferation efforts and provoke North Korea and Japan, making the security situation in Northeast Asia more volatile.

A 1974 agreement with Washington, which expires in 2014, bans Seoul from enriching uranium or reprocessing spent fuel.

The next nuclear summit in Seoul, meanwhile, will likely become more fruitful than the first one, John Feffer, co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus (www.fpif.org), Institute for Policy Studies, said.

"By 2012, I hope that the United States and Russia will have begun discussions on deeper cuts in their nuclear arsenals and such matters as tactical nuclear weapons," he said. "That would help ensure that the discussions in 2012 are substantive and not simply pro forma."


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