Today the Nuclear Security Summit gets under way. President Obama already met with King Abdullah II of Jordan here at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. No word on what they discussed, though a read-out should be available soon. Security is tighter here than I’ve ever seen it. The U.S. Army is out in force, though they appear to be unarmed. Army trucks line most of the streets and intersections stretching out for many blocks away from the Convention Center. Groups of soldiers can be seen on the street corners, along with scores of police and Secret Service. Near the Convention Center the streets are blocked off with heavy-duty black riot fencing and concrete barriers. Heavily armed Secret Service are everywhere and inside the Convention Center every area is heavily guarded. As one reporter said in the official pool report this morning, “the city is basically a police state today with so many leaders to protect.” A few protestors were seen outside the barriers, though I couldn’t make out what they were protesting because their signs were in Chinese.
Now for the real news. President Obama is currently in a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Mohammed Najib Abdul Razak of Malaysia. Later today he will also hold bilaterals with President Victor Yanukovich of Ukraine, President Serzh Sargsian of Armenia, and President Hu Jintao of China. Yesterday he met with the leaders of India, Kazakhstan, South Africa, Pakistan and Nigeria. Below are my summaries of what was discussed at each of those meetings.
India – global development, economic infrastructure, food security, poverty reduction, Afghanistan, the Nuclear Security Summit, counterterrorism, and nuclear non-proliferation
Kazakhstan – extensive talk on nuclear safety and non-proliferation, Afghanistan, investment and trade, democracy, civil contacts between the US and Kazakhstan, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe; for more details, check out the official joint statement from the meeting at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/joint-statement-meeting-between-president-obama-and-kazakhstan-president-nazarbayev
South Africa – nuclear security, South Africa’s dismantling of its nuclear weapons program, Iran, South Africa’s HIV/AIDS epidemic, climate change and clean energy, Zimbabwe, and the 2010 World Cup
Pakistan – the April 5 terrorist attack on the US Consulate and the simultaneous attack against a political event, the March 24-25 Strategic Dialogue between the US and Pakistan, increasing Pakistani popular support for the US-Pakistani relationship, US assistance to Pakistan, and energy-sector projects in Pakistan
Nigeria – global security, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, terrorism, democracy, fighting corruption, economic development and internal conflict
The biggest news of the day was right before Obama’s meeting with President Zuma of South Africa, when he spoke to the press and gave us the sound bites needed for the evening’s newscasts and this morning’s papers. Notably, he said that “the single biggest threat to U.S. security, both short term, medium term and long term, would be the possibility of a terrorist organization obtaining a nuclear weapon. This is something that could change the security landscape of this country and around the world for years to come. If there was ever a detonation in New York City, or London, or Johannesburg, the ramifications economically, politically, and from a security perspective would be devastating. And we know that organizations like al Qaeda are in the process of trying to secure a nuclear weapon — a weapon of mass destruction that they have no compunction at using.”
That’s all for now. Obama should be about ready to meet with President Yanukovich of the Ukraine. In about an hour, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan will hold a press briefing here at the Convention Center. I’ll update with a new post after that with the news of today. Also, quickly, Vice President Biden has been in bilateral meetings this morning and will be hosting a lunch with several world leaders at the Naval Observatory. More on that after the press briefing.