Obama Cites Global Efforts to Stop Nuclear Terror
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 26, 2012 The world is safer because the international community has made it harder than ever for terrorists to acquire nuclear weapons, President Barack Obama told students at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, South Korea, today.
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, Republic of Korea, March 25, 2012. White House photo by Pete Souza
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The president -- who is in South Korea’s capital city to attend the Nuclear Security Summit -- cited nuclear terrorism as one of the greatest threats to global security.
“We’re building an international architecture that can ensure nuclear safety,” Obama said. “But we’re under no illusions. We know that nuclear material, enough for many weapons, is still being stored without adequate protection. And we know that terrorists and criminal gangs are still trying to get their hands on it -- as well as radioactive material for a dirty bomb.”
An amount of plutonium about the size of an apple could kill hundreds of thousands of people and spark global crisis, the president told the students.
“Here in Seoul, more than 50 nations will mark our progress toward the goal we set at the summit I hosted two years ago in Washington -- securing the world’s vulnerable nuclear materials in four years so that they never fall into the hands of terrorists,” he said.
Obama noted that since the last summit, the United States, South Korea, Japan, Pakistan and others have boosted security at nuclear facilities and are building new centers to improve nuclear security and training. Kazakhstan, Mexico and Ukraine have joined the ranks of nations that have secured or removed all the highly enriched uranium from their territory, he said.
“All told, thousands of pounds of nuclear material have been removed from vulnerable sites around the world,” Obama said. “This was deadly material that is now secure and can now never be used against a city like Seoul.”
The international community also is using every tool at its disposal to break up black markets in nuclear material, the president said. “Nearly 20 nations have now ratified the treaties and international partnerships that are at the center of our efforts,” he added.
Obama noted that with the death of Osama bin Laden and other major blows against al-Qaida, a terrorist organization that has actively sought nuclear weapons now is on the path to defeat.
“And that's why we’re here in Seoul -- we need to keep at it,” he said. “And I believe we will. We’re expecting dozens of nations to announce over the next several days that they’ve fulfilled the promises they made two years ago. And we’re now expecting more commitments -- tangible, concrete action -- to secure nuclear materials and, in some cases, remove them completely.”
The president said South Korea is one of the key leaders in a serious, sustained global effort the international community needs, and he pledged continued American support.
“The United States will continue to do our part -- securing our own material and helping others protect theirs,” Obama said.
“And we will work with industry and hospitals and research centers in the United States and around the world to recover thousands of unneeded radiological materials so that they can never do us harm.”
Obama acknowledged there are doubters “who deride our vision” and “those who say ours is an impossible goal that will be forever out of reach.” But he pointed to South Korea as an example of great progress, contrasting its prosperity with conditions in North Korea.
“Come to this country, which rose from the ashes of war, turning rubble into gleaming cities,” he said. “Stand where I stood yesterday, along a border that is the world’s clearest contrast between a country committed to progress, a country committed to its people, and a country that leaves its own citizens to starve.”
The president acknowledged that much like his vision of a world without nuclear weapons, a unified Korea may not be in immediate reach.
“But from this day until then, and all the days that follow,” he added, “we take comfort in knowing that the security we seek, the peace we want is closer at hand because of the great alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea. … And no matter the test, no matter the trial, we stand together.”