Seoul and Washington began revising the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit draft Communiqué this week after participating states made their preliminary marks on it during the June Sous Sherpas (deputies) meeting in Seoul. Korea is the chair of the upcoming Summit and the U.S. was the 2010 Summit chair.
It is the second meeting of its kind following U.S. Sherpa Gary Samore’s (White House WMD policy coordinator) trip to Seoul in early May. (Click ‘Read More.’)
The general scope and details of the agenda are already laid out in the draft Communiqué circulated by Seoul in mid-June. The task now is to fine-tune them, engage in diplomacy to ensure that proper steps be taken to secure vulnerable nuclear materials around the world, and reach consensus before state leaders gather in Seoul next March.
It appears that world leaders will adopt one document, the Communiqué – unlike the previous Summit’s two documents (Communiqué and Work Plan) – that includes both general consensus agreements and goal-oriented actionable steps. Officials say the “logic” is to prevent the Work Plan from being regarded as an Annex, and to ensure that all pledges are given the political force and attention they deserve.
The challenge is to craft a Communiqué that not only deepens the 2010 Summit pledges but sets goals that are politically acceptable to all state leaders. Substance is most important, but wording is equally important in international agreements. It is a challenge because the objective is to stipulate specific goals and actions, some of which may hope to be time sensitive. An example of a possible political challenge could be agreeing on specific actionable steps regarding highly enriched uranium (HEU) minimization and guidelines. This is why diplomacy will be key in persuading countries to throw in their support for specific measures that are vital to protecting people and the environment from nuclear and radiological terrorism. Diplomacy would also be important in persuading state leaders to support certain measures they may prefer to address in other international fora at the senior or working level.
Washington had set up the Nuclear Security Summit to be a consensus-based initiative to avoid intrusive measures while respecting each nation’s sovereignty. U.S. officials have heralded it as an effective way to bring countries on board. This is why the 2010 Communiqué includes ambiguous phrases such as “…subject to respective national laws and procedures” and “…as appropriate.” Diplomacy is still integral in garnering support and consensus, even for ambiguously-worded clauses.
A universal awareness of the nuclear threat is the foundation and starting point for designing and implementing nuclear security measures. However, due to differing threat perceptions, such universality – or the degree in which all states agree on the threat – is a challenge but one that still needs to be pursued.
Another challenge is narrowing the gap between the “haves” and “have nots” as well as between those who desire more specific nuclear security measures and those who are satisfied with the level of agreement reached in 2010.
Click here for my Working Paper on the Nuclear Security Summit.