"I want to thank the Arms Control Association … for being such effective advocates for sensible policies to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and most importantly, reduce the risk of nuclear war."
– Senator Joe Biden
January 28, 2004
Work on Nuclear Security Summit Progresses

Volha Charnysh

Preparations for a planned nuclear security summit in Washington are moving along well, and preliminary discussions on follow-up meetings have already begun, a senior Department of State official said in a Dec. 22 interview.

World leaders are scheduled to meet in Washington April 12-13 to discuss nuclear security, carrying out an idea that President Barack Obama proposed in his speech in Prague last year. At a Dec. 2-3 preparatory meeting in Tokyo for the April event, there was “an open and inclusive atmosphere,” and few contentious issues were raised, Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins, State Department coordinator for threat reduction programs, said in the interview.

According to media reports, which Jenkins confirmed, Obama has invited 43 countries to attend. Invitations were “based on several criteria, including the states’ possession of fissile materials and nuclear cycle facilities as well as their involvement in the international norms and agreements,” she said. Regional representation was another factor in the selection process, she added. Even the states that were not invited will be engaged in the longer-term effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials worldwide, she said.

The summit’s aim is to help develop steps “to secure vulnerable materials, combat nuclear smuggling and deter, detect, and disrupt attempts at nuclear terrorism,” according to a July 8 White House statement. “The planned outcome of the Summit would be a communiqué pledging efforts to attain the highest levels of nuclear security,” the statement said. The summit participants also will draft a plan of work, Jenkins said.

The next and possibly last preparatory meeting for the summit will be held in the Netherlands in February, she said.

In early planning for the April event, there was some discussion of the possibility that Russia would host the meeting, Jenkins said. Russia might “potentially host a nuclear security summit” in the future, she said.

Jenkins said Japan is considering hosting a regional meeting on nuclear security issues. She said she anticipated that more countries would follow Japan’s example by “taking leadership roles” at a regional level.