WASHINGTON – The capital is facing a high profile event this week when leaders from 56 countries gather for the Nuclear Security Summit that starts Thursday. For two days, President Barack Obama will host leaders from across the world to discuss key issues in nuclear nonproliferation and security.
A key absence during the summit will be the Russian delegation. Though Russia is very much involved in the issue of nuclear nonproliferation, the country announced last year that it would not be participating.
In a media briefing at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Olga Oliker of the Russia and Eurasia Program, said it was due in part to tensions between Russia and the U.S. Russia attended all three previous summits in D.C., Seoul and the Hague, but was not fully engaged in the negotiations.
It will be a disruptive event for the city. The summit will take place in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on the edge of downtown a mile up New York Avenue from the White House. Roads near the center and around Mount Vernon Square will be closed, and Metro trains will not stop at the station under the center.
As for the event itself, it is expected delegates will take on a few key issues.
Since the first summit in 2010, the event has dealt with increasing the security of nuclear facilities across the world and minimizing the risks. This includes the theft of nuclear materials, the sabotage of nuclear facilities and the possibility of terrorists making nuclear weapons.
For this event, the fourth and final summit, Obama will hold a trilateral meeting with South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan. The goal of this meeting will be to discuss further cooperation and the situation in North Korea.
“It would not surprise me if there was activity by North Korea during this summit,” said Victor Cha, the CSIS’s Korea chair. “North Koreans always like to draw a little bit of attention to themselves with further missile launches.”
Cha said that, despite what Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump said over the weekend about nuclear power in Japan and Korea, he doesn’t expect the presidential race to be present in the discussion as anything more than “in jest, as people are going to refill their coffee cups.”
Obama will meet privately with Xi Jinping, the president of China. The goal is to forge a better cooperation among China, South Korea and Japan to manage nonproliferation in North Korea. Though there have been some tensions with China lately, they are not on the nuclear front, and the U.S. continues to work closely with Beijing on nuclear security.
Another issue on the table, related to the security of nuclear energy facilities, comes from the recent reports of a Belgian nuclear plant being targeted by an Islamic State group cell. This highlights the dangers arising from the possibility of extremist groups gaining access to nuclear materials. This will be discussed, along with the risks of nuclear facilities becoming more and more digitized, and thus having more exposure to cyber-attacks.
Finally, the summit will serve as an opportunity to discuss the Iran nuclear deal. Though Iran was not invited to the summit, Obama will meet with other world leaders to talk about how they will ensure compliance with the deal.
As this is the last planned summit of its kind, delegations are expecting to consolidate some progress, and get more countries committed to specific goals. In the future, discussions on nuclear security will take place within the scope of other organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The summits have already resulted in the creation of multiple Centers for Nuclear Security Excellence and added radiation detecting equipment to more than 300 international borders, airports and seaports.
Reach reporter Karina Meier at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-408-1491. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.
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