Chinese president charts course to strengthen global nuclear security

Chinese President Xi Jinping during his meeting with US President Barack Obama at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, on March 31.
Chinese President Xi Jinping during his meeting with US President Barack Obama at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, on March 31.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON - Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday urged countries around the world to increase national input and expand international co-operation to further strenghten the global nuclear security architecture, Xinhua reported.

He made the appeal in a speech delivered at the opening plenary of the fourth Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) titled "Strengthen Global Nuclear Security Architecture and Promote Global Nuclear Security Governance."

In his speech, Xi noted that the NSS process has provided a major boost to international nuclear security, including developing common goals, establishing key priorities, and mapping out the blueprint for the future. However, he pointed out, new threats and challenges keep emerging in the security field, the root causes of terrorism are far from being removed, and nuclear terrorism remains a grave threat to international security.

"A more robust global nuclear security architecture is the prerequisite for the sound development of nuclear energy," he said.

Recalling that he envisioned the building of a global nuclear security system featuring fairness and win-win co-operation at the third NSS in The Hague in 2014, Xi laid out a four-pronged proposal for the international community to make fresh efforts.

Countries across the world need first to step up political input and stick to the direction of addressing both symptoms and root causes, said the Chinese president.

"As national leaders, we have the responsibility to ensure that nuclear security gets adequate attention," he said, adding that only with a solution that addresses both symptoms and root causes can the world "remove the breeding ground of nuclear terrorism at an early date." The international community, Xi said, should also step up national responsibility and tighten a line of defense that is sustainable.

Pointing out that as a country makes its own choice to develop nuclear energy, Xi said the country also bears unshirkable responsibility to ensure nuclear security. The Chinese leader suggested that day-to-day prevention and crisis response must go together as the threat posed by nuclear terrorism is highly asymmetrical and unpredictable.

Meanwhile, he said concerted efforts should be made to step up international co-operation and enhance the momentum of co-ordination for common progress. Citing the fact that "nuclear security incidents will have impacts that go beyond national borders," Xi said existing international organizations and mechanisms can serve as solid platforms for international co-operation on nuclear security in the future.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the world's nuclear watchdog, "can play a central role to co-ordinate and consolidate global resources for nuclear security, and use its professional expertise to serve all countries," Xi said. "As the most universal international organization, the United Nations can continue to play an important role."

In addition, the international community needs to step up the culture of nuclear security and create an atmosphere of joint efforts and shared benefits, he said.

"The awareness of the rule of law, the sense of urgency, and the spirit of self-discipline and co-ordination are central to the nuclear security culture," Xi pointed out. "It is equally important that the academic community and the general public also foster the awareness of nuclear security."

The NSS, a biennial event initiated by US President Barack Obama, gathered leaders and envoys from 52 countries and four international organizations this year. The six-year-old mechanism would come to an end in its current format after the 2016 meeting.

Yet against the backdrop of new threats and challenges emerging on the horizon, Xi stressed that "the conclusion of the Nuclear Security Summit will not be the end of our endeavour, rather it will be the beginning of a new journey." The Chinese premier said China, the fastest growing nuclear power in the world, will carry out a series of new measures to beef up its own nuclear security and to help advance related international co-operation.

Xi said China will build a capacity building network on nuclear security by using existing platforms, such as the Center of Excellence on Nuclear Security jointly built by Beijing and Washington in China, to carry out training of nuclear security professionals, exercises and exchanges on nuclear security technologies.

The president also pledged to support all countries in minimizing the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU) according to their needs as long as it is economically and technologically viable. China will promote the cooperation model for less use of HEU, Xi said, referring to his country's help for Ghana to convert an HEU-fueled research reactor to using low enriched uranium within the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the world's nuclear watchdog.

"We are willing to build on the Ghana model and help countries convert HEU-fueled miniature neutron source reactors imported from China under the principle of voluntarism and pragmatism," he told the plenary.

Commenting on measures to strengthen security of radioactive sources, Xi said China will, in the coming five years, review the radioactive sources within the country, improve the security system and give priority to conducting real-time monitoring of high-risk mobile radioactive sources.

"We stand ready to share our experience with other countries and work with them to enhance the security monitoring of radioactive sources," he said.

Xi promised to launch the technological support initiative against the crisis of nuclear terrorism, vowing that his country will carry out scientific research in civilian nuclear material analysis and tracing, actively organize mock exercises and jointly enhance capacity for addressing crisis.

He also said that China will promote its national security monitoring system for nuclear power, according to Xinhua.

China applies the most stringent security monitoring to ensure the safety and security of the nuclear power stations within China and those exported to other parts of the world, Xi underlined. China will help others enhance their capacity in security monitoring and contribute its share to enhancing nuclear power safety and security worldwide, he added.

Recalling that China and the United States successfully held their first annual nuclear security dialogue in February, he said, "We will also deepen our exchanges and cooperation with other countries, the UN and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism."