Here are photos from the first day of the Nuclear Security Summit, courtesy of my trusty cell phone camera.
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.
By: Walter Fick
White House Correspondent
WASHINGTON – Tomorrow marks the first day of the Nuclear Security Summit, but meetings are already planned for today as President Obama tries to reach out to other world leaders. Administration officials hail the summit as part of a global effort to prevent nuclear terrorism and secure vulnerable nuclear materials.
To kick off the Summit, Obama will hold four bilateral meetings at the Blair House today with the leaders of India, Kazakhstan, South Africa and Pakistan. A previously scheduled meeting with President Medvedev of Russia has apparently been delayed or canceled, though the White House has not yet commented on the schedule change.
On Monday, Obama will continue with at least four bilateral meeting, before individually welcoming each delegation to the Summit. Tuesday will include the main activities, such as two planner recessions with the delegations and a concluding press conference.
Obama’s officials have emphasized the need for this conference to make headway in global nuclear security. Obama has called the threat of nuclear terrorism one of his highest priorities and in the last week made two key steps towards improved nuclear security. Both the newly released Nuclear Posture Review and the new START treaty are designed to lower international tensions related to nuclear weapons. This week’s summit will draw much more focused attention on securing vulnerable nuclear materials and preparing countries to deal with the threat of a nuclear-armed terrorist.
“A nuclear weapon in the hands of a terrorist is a danger to people everywhere — from Moscow to New York; from the cities of Europe to South Asia,” Obama said on Thursday. ”Next week, 47 nations will come together in Washington to discuss concrete steps that can be taken to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world in four years.”
The promise to secure nuclear materials in four years was first made by Obama last year when he visited Prague to outline his plan for the future of nuclear weapons. Getting all nations on board with the plan, however, may be extremely difficult.
Past attempts to increase security around nuclear weapons have yielded minimal fruit. Some progress has been made, by converting many highly-enriched uranium reactors to using non-weapons grade uranium, but countries have often balked at US advice on how to secure reactors and testing sites.
One potential difference will be the new role of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The IAEA recently had added to its mission the role of providing assistance and guidelines on what is adequate physical security for holding nuclear materials. Dr. Amano, the head of the IAEA, will be among those in attendance at the Summit. A head-of-delegation lunch on Tuesday will also focus on the role of the IAEA and how the agency can assist countries.
“It’s very important that we try to endorse and strengthen the role of the IAEA in this area,” Gary Samore, the White House Coordinator for WMDs, Counter-Terrorism and Arms Control, said.
Administration officials hope that the Summit will get countries to the point of making firm declarations of their intentions to strengthen the security surrounding their nuclear materials. Experts, however, warn that any advances in this area will likely be modest.
For more, tune in to WPRB 103.3FM at 12:30PM today to listen to an interview with nuclear security expert and Princeton University Professor Dr. Frank von Hilden, and be sure to check out wprb.com/news for more updates.