U.S. Tries to Keep Summit Nuclearhttp://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304703104575174180505414718.html?mod=rss_Today%27s_Most_Popular
WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama, ahead of a two-day nuclear security summit, tipped his hand early on the lengths he would compromise on other ideals to advance his nuclear agenda, meeting with an array of world leaders Sunday with questionable credentials but vital roles to play in securing nuclear weapons and materials.
His first day of meetings included a coveted, one-on-one session with Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan's strong man who has ruled that former Soviet republic since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Mr. Nazarbayev has been criticized by human-rights activists for corruption and repression, but he has been praised by Obama Administration officials for voluntarily giving up the massive nuclear arsenal left behind in the 1990s by the receding Soviet empire. He is now seeking Mr. Obama's backing to house a nuclear fuel bank, where non-nuclear powers can obtain enriched uranium for nuclear power plants without having to build their own nuclear enrichment plants, which could also be used to build atomic weapons materials.
The U.S. president will also be meeting with the heads of two of the newest declared nuclear powers, India and Pakistan, which angered the international community when they tested their first weapons in 1998. Securing their arsenals, especially Pakistan's, has become a primary concern for the administration in the face of Islamist insurgencies in the region. He will also meet with Jacob Zuma, the mercurial president of South Africa who has clashed with U.S. officials over AIDS policy. The U.S. president is seeking to reward South Africa for voluntarily giving up its nuclear weapons program after the collapse of the apartheid regime.
"The threat of nuclear terrorism has increased," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on ABC's This Week. "And we want to get the world's attention focused where we think it needs to be with these continuing efforts by Al Qaeda and others to get just enough nuclear material to cause terrible havoc, destruction, and loss of life somewhere in the world."
Leaders from 46 countries are descending on Washington for a two-day summit the Obama administration hopes will kick-start efforts to make all nuclear materials secure from smugglers and terrorists within four years.
The conference, which officially begins Monday evening, is the third act in a monthlong effort by the White House to give momentum to nuclear disarmament, following a new nuclear military doctrine released by the Pentagon on Tuesday and an arms-control treaty with Russia signed on Thursday.
But a series of high-profile foreign-policy challenges could overshadow the administration's nonproliferation efforts this week. At least two of those involve China, whose president, Hu Jintao, will hold talks with President Barack Obama just before the summit starts.
China, Iran's largest market for oil, has resisted supporting stiff new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. Beijing has also resisted pressure to revalue its currency, a move that Washington says would make U.S. exports more competitive.
Meanwhile, the decision by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to withdraw from the summit at the last minute, in order to avoid questions about his country's undeclared nuclear arsenal, has caused ripples before the summit has begun.
Senior administration officials said they are working to keep the summit narrowly focused on nuclear security, saying they expect several countries to announce moves similar to that of Chile, which last month began shipping its highly enriched uranium to the U.S. for safekeeping.
"You can be sure that the president will devote 100% of his time to this summit and to guiding it and keeping it on track, on theme, on message," said U.S. National Security Adviser James Jones.
Senior administration officials acknowledged that discussions on the formal sidelines of the summit are likely to stray from the agenda, particularly in formal bilateral meetings Mr. Obama is holding with other leaders.
Mr. Hu's meeting with Mr. Obama is expected to garner the most attention, coming soon after Beijing reacted angrily to administration decisions to sell arms to Taiwan and host the Dalai Lama at the White House, though U.S.-China relations have warmed in recent weeks, and U.S. officials have expressed the hope that Mr. Hu's decision to attend the summit could foreshadow a new willingness to cooperate on Iranian sanctions and on currency revaluation.
Despite the potential distractions, senior administration officials said that in addition to promises from individual countries to secure or rid themselves of weapons-grade nuclear materials, they expected the summit to produce a communiqué that would commit participants to strengthen nuclear safeguards.
The work of the summit, the officials said, will be on Tuesday, when Mr. Obama will lead two separate two-hour plenary sessions, the first focusing on national commitments to secure nuclear material and the second dealing with international conventions that are aimed at strengthening nuclear controls.
Gary Samore, the top arms-control official at the National Security Council, said both sessions will focus on the two fuels that most concern international proliferation experts—separated plutonium and highly enriched uranium—because they are the two materials that can be used to make nuclear explosives.
"If we're able to lock those down and deny them to nonstate actors, then we have essentially solved the risk of nuclear terrorism," Mr. Samore said.