Singapore taking steps to counter nuclear threats: PM Lee

PM Lee attending the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington.
PM Lee attending the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington.PHOTO: MCI

WASHINGTON - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong underlined Singapore’s commitment to supporting counter-proliferation efforts at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington on Friday, outlining three key efforts the government is taking.

The efforts include combating illicit trafficking, cooperating with international efforts and encouraging countries to reduce nuclear weapons.

He said that while Singapore does not have significant nuclear material or facilities, it could be a place through which illicit nuclear materials pass, or become the target of an attack.

He added that even if a nuclear incident were to take place outside Singapore’s borders, its spillover effects could still affect Singaporeans.

Hence, when it comes to trafficking, he said that Singapore has tightened its export control regime and upgraded radiation screening technology at its ports. He said the authorities have previously intercepted cargo and are opening the first border laboratory to conduct nuclear detection and analysis later this year.

The lab – called a Protective, Analytical and Assessment Facility – is being built in Pasir Panjang. It will have tools to detect and analyse dangerous materials, as well as equipment to deal with any fallout.

PM Lee added that Singapore was very concerned about developments in North Korea. The regime has continued to develop nuclear capabilities and conduct tests, despite harsh UN sanctions.

Pyongyang reportedly conducted its latest ballistic missile test as world leaders were gathering in Washington for the nuclear meeting.

“If DPRK’s neighbours respond and feel compelled to move closer to threshold status, it will gravely destabilise the region,” he said.

One of the more recent nuclear threats discussed at this year’s summit is the risk of nuclear terrorism.

Mr Lee said that though the threat is not the most imminent, it remains a “very plausible and believable” threat. He noted, for instance, that the militant group known as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has already demonstrated an intent to engage in nuclear terrorism.

He cited an ISIS propaganda magazine from last year that highlighted a nuclear terrorism scenario  in which ISIS purchases a nuclear device from the black market to launch an attack.

“If it (a nuclear terror attack) ever happens, it would be disastrous. So we must, as an international community, continue to fight against nuclear terrorism. And this series of summits, I am confident, has done a significant part to help towards that fight,” he said. 

On the sidelines of the summit on Friday, PM Lee met the Danish PM Lars Lokke Rasmussen, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Israel’s Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Yuval Steinitz.