“NK could be next Chernobyl”

March 24, 2014

Park proposes Pyongyang as pilot case to make nuclear-free world

President Park Geun-hye shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping after a summit at The Hague, the Netherlands, Sunday. On the sidelines of the biennial Nuclear Security Summit, the two leaders discussed North Korea as well as economic cooperation. (Yonhap)

President Park Geun-hye shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping after a summit at The Hague, the Netherlands, Sunday. On the sidelines of the biennial Nuclear Security Summit, the two leaders discussed North Korea as well as economic cooperation. (Yonhap)

By Kim Tae-gyu

THE HAGUE ― President Park Geun-hye proposed denuclearizing North Korea, Monday, as a pilot program to make a world free of nuclear weapons.

“If North Korea transfers its nuclear weapons to terrorist groups, it would pose a great challenge to world peace,” Park told the opening ceremony of the third Nuclear Security Summit.

Referring to the poor safety of Pyongyang’s nuclear facilities, she warned: “If a fire breaks out in its nuclear complex in Yongbyon, it could wreak more havoc than Chernobyl did.” Chernobyl, then located in Ukraine under Soviet control, was the site of a major nuclear accident in 1986. The Chernobyl disaster and that in Fukushima, Japan, are recorded as the two largest-scale nuclear accidents in history.

Park’s suggestion sounded as a response in kind to a proposal made by U.S. President Barack Obama to rid the world of nuclear weapons in 2009, which led to the inception of the ongoing biennial summit.

South Korea President Park Geun-hye attends the opening session of the Nuclear Summit in The Hague, the Netherlands, on Monday, March 24, 2014. (AP / Yonhap)

South Korea President Park Geun-hye attends the opening session of the Nuclear Summit in The Hague, the Netherlands, on Monday, March 24, 2014. (AP / Yonhap)

It comes on the heels of an agreement she reconfirmed with Chinese President Xi Jinping opposing a nuclear armed North Korea during their summit Sunday.

“It could be comparable in the scale of damage to the meltdown of the nuclear plant at Fukushima, Japan, three years ago,” the President said. She made her speech in Korean.

The North has refused to scrap its nuclear programs as demonstrated by its third nuclear test in February 2013, after previous ones in 2006 and 2009.

The North is believed to have a nuclear weapons stockpile and to be working on miniaturizing warheads. It has also test-fired long-range rockets, which experts worry could eventually be used to reach the mainland United States.

Top representatives from 53 nations and four global organizations are participating in the ongoing summit. Korea hosted the second summit in 2012.

Park came up with four specific suggestions starting with a holistic approach to achieve synergy in achieving the three top goals of nuclear security, the reduction of nuclear weapons and non-proliferation.

“Such synergy was confirmed through the project of converting material from nuclear arsenals to energy sources under the name Megatons to Megawatts between the United States and Russia, which came to an end in 2013,” Park said describing the first.

“A large amount of highly-enriched uranium, enough to make 20,000 nuclear warheads, was used to generate electricity. That is tantamount to the swords to plowshares spirit.”

The second was to seek a regional collaborative mechanism. Park said that Northeast Asia can take the lead because the area accounts for about a quarter of the world’s nuclear reactors.

The third and final suggestions were to reduce the widening gap among countries on nuclear security, and to address newly-emerging threats of cyber-terrorism against nuclear facilities.

As a viable action plan, Park pointed to a multilateral system designed to track radioactive materials, which South Korea has carried out in Vietnam together with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Radiation Source Location Tracking is aimed at locating any radioactive materials on a real-time basis on the strength of global positioning system satellites.

The Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety developed the cutting-edge format. It has used the system to track more than 1,000 radioactive sources nationwide.

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