by Lucy-Claire Saunders
UNITED NATIONS, March 23 (Xinhua) -- In an effort to address concerns about security and confidence in the world's vast nuclear arsenal, U.S. President Barack Obama will host a high-level summit on nuclear security in Washington D.C. on April 12-13, an event which experts say will draw much attention but has uncertain outcome.
TOUGH TALKS AHEAD
Calling the event "politically sensitive," Tom Collina of the Arms Control Association said Obama must try to convince other nuclear weapons states, like Russia, to beef up their security and accept potentially onerous restrictions on how to handle their fissile materials.
"There is a certain amount of sovereignty sensitivity about other nations telling a particular nation how to manage its nuclear stockpiles," the research director told Xinhua on Tuesday. "They don't want standards imposed on them that they feel are unwarranted."
At the two-day summit, Obama will lead a discussion on steps the international community can take to secure vulnerable nuclear materials and prevent acts of nuclear terrorism.
The result of the talks is likely to be announced in a communique, which will not be that "exciting," said Collina, adding his expectations are somewhat limited.
"Whenever you bring that many nations together and try to get them to agree on a common agenda, that's what you end up with -- the lowest common denominator," he said. "It doesn't have to push the envelope very far."
But if Obama can convince the other 44 nations to agree that, as a matter of the "highest priority," they must secure highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium from terrorist groups, it will be considered a success, said Robert G. Gard Jr., chairman of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, a non-profit research organization based in Washington D.C..
"You need to nail nuclear materials down at the source so the terrorists can't get their hands on them," he told Xinhua. "We've been treating this far too routinely."
The summit, designed in response to Obama's pledge to secure all fissile materials by the end of 2013, has been a long time coming, said Gard.
In 2004, the United States launched the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, which accelerated the removal of nuclear materials from sites around the world. But the program, with a disproportionate emphasis on Russian fuel, left two-thirds of U.S.-supplied HEU uncovered.
"It was at best a preliminary step and this was three years after 9/11," said Gard. "What are we waiting for?"