x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

UAE pledges $1 million to help upgrade UN nuke labs

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, says that threats related to nuclear security affect all nations.

SEOUL // Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, announced yesterday that the UAE will donate US$1 million (Dh3.67m) to help upgrade laboratories at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that track the origin of nuclear material.

Sheikh Mohammed also announced plans to host an IAEA workshop in October 2013 on safeguarding radioactive sources that could be used to make "dirty bombs", which can contaminate areas with large amounts of radiation. Participating with leaders from more than 50 nations in the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, Sheikh Mohammed said that threats related to nuclear security, including the possibility of nuclear terrorism, affect all nations.

The UAE is joining with other nations to pay to expand and enhance the UN nuclear watchdog's labs, which allow the agency to determine the origin of nuclear materials and detect undeclared and illegal nuclear installations.

On the sidelines of the summit, North Korea's plan to launch a satellite that many believe is a practice run for a nuclear missile drew criticism from neighbours including China, its close political ally and benefactor. North Korea's nuclear aims were explicitly excluded from the agenda, but its plans were much discussed, even at the formal summit.

"The planned missile launch North Korea recently announced would go against the international community's nuclear non-proliferation effort and violate UN Security Council resolutions," Yoshihiko Noda, the Japanese prime minister, told 52 other ministers and heads of state at the meeting.

The announcement of the rocket launch, which is planned for mid-April, came just a month after the US and North Korea reached a deal in which North Korea would halt missile tests and uranium enrichment in exchange for food aid.

Hu Jintao, the Chinese president, held "intense" discussions with the US president, Barack Obama, over North Korea's announced satellite launch, said Ma Zhaoxu, China's assistant foreign minister.

"China is concerned and worried about the development of the situation," Mr Zhaoxu said. "China calls on relevant parties to focus on the larger picture and the long-term picture, and exercise restraint and find a solution through diplomatic means."

China is willing to continue to serve as an interlocutor between North Korea and other nations to "uphold regional peace and stability", said Mr Zhaoxu, in a briefing to reporters on the meeting between the American and Chinese presidents.

"Over the years, China has made tireless efforts for the demilitarisation of the Korean peninsula and upholding peace," he said. "China is willing to maintain communication and close coordination with the parties concerned, and uphold regional peace and stability."

At the meeting, where leaders are trying to curb the threat of nuclear attacks from terrorists, nations agreed to continue efforts to cut nuclear stockpiles and improve security for nuclear facilities to cut the risk that terrorists could steal nuclear material.

Concrete commitments, should they be hammered out, would follow in two years when the nations meet again in the Netherlands.

The US, Belgium, France and South Korea plan to develop a special low uranium-235 fuel to replace the highly enriched nuclear fuel used in today's research reactors.

"We've come a long way in a very short time, and that should encourage us [but] that should not lead us to complacency," Mr Obama told leaders at the summit.

But the summit was overshadowed by concerns over North Korea and Iran, which the IAEA believes is developing a nuclear weapon.

South Korea, which in recent years has adopted a policy of promoting conciliation with its neighbour, said that North Korea's launch would set back its chances of joining the international community and building its economy.

"This is a serious, provocative act and a serious security threat," said Yu Woo-ik, the South Korean minister of unification. "North Korea should immediately withdraw from the missile launch plan. Otherwise there will be consequences."

By ignoring its agreement to halt missile tests or nuclear enrichment in exchange for food aid, North Korea was "going against humanity and against common sense", he said.

"Korea is trying to launch the missile to show its nuclear stature ... This can be construed as putting a stopgap measure in the turmoil of their political situation. They do not have enough power."

In spite of souring relations, Mr Yu remained optimistic that the South Korean legislature this year would authorise a US$50 billion reunification fund. It would rely on a proposed seed payment of US$15 million from the government and donations from Koreans. The programme is meant to raise the amount of money South Korea estimates would be necessary to rehabilitate and integrate with its neighbour over one year, should the nations ever unify.

"The key to unification is in the hands of the two Koreas," said Mr Yu. "However, for real unification to really happen, we need support from neighbouring countries."

Last year he visited the US, China and EU to talk about the possibility of rapprochement with the North, and plans to go to Japan and Russia this year for similar missions.

ayee@thenational.ae