Leaders meet for Nuclear Summit

April 7th, 2016



President Barack Obama hosted a nuclear security summit that was attended by representatives from over 50 other countries, including nations that, like the United States, currently possess nuclear weapons. The summit lasted two days, March 31 and April 1. According to CNN, leaders such as David Cameron of Britain; Francois Hollande of France; Justin Trudeau of Canada; Matteo Renzi of Italy; Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto Park Geun-hye of South Korea; Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader; and Shinzo Abe of Japan were all in attendance. Notably absent were the leaders of Pakistan and Russia, both of whom received an invitation.


According to the BBC, the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif canceled his trip after a bombing in his country, but originally intended to make the trip. Vladimir Putin, however, refused to have himself or a representative of his country attend the summit. Both Pakistan and Russia have nuclear stockpiles. The only other country known to have nuclear weapons that was not present was North Korea, which was a major topic of the summit’s conversation. According to The Guardian, North Korea, in the summit’s eyes, poses the most recognizable and immediate threat to global peace and nuclear agreements and disarmament. The nation’s rouge actions cause great concern for South Korea, Japan, and China. All of whom expressed this at the summit.


Donald Trump, a contender for the Republican presidential nomination, recently made comments about nuclear weapons in Asia, and the possible proliferation of nuclear arms to South Korea and Japan to “balance” the region against potential U.S. enemies, most notable among them being North Korea. These statements, according to The New York Times, were brought up at the summit to Obama, who condemned the comments. Obama and the rest of the summit affirmed their position on halting the spread of nuclear weapons and pledged to fight their proliferation. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his officials were adamant and quick to remind the world that Japan, the only country to have been subject to nuclear attack, would under no circumstances obtain, hold or use nuclear weapons.


The BBC reported the other major topic that the summit discussed was the potential for rouge, unstable and/or hostile states from acquiring nuclear weapons. The talks discussed the danger and potential of terrorist organizations building or obtaining nuclear weapons. The Islamic State terrorist group and al-Qaida were the primary groups discussed. The Islamic State has, as the BBC and President Obama pointed out, already used weapons of mass destruction in its campaign in the Middle East: the Islamic State on several occasions used chemical weapons against its enemies that it acquired from Syria and Iraq. This left little doubt in President Obama’s mind that these “madmen,” as he called them, would be all too willing to use nuclear weapons if they could.


The Guardian reported that no terrorist organization is known to have nuclear weapons. Obama and the rest of the summit cited past successes in agreements and actions to draw down nuclear weapons, and remain hopeful towards the future.


Editor’s Note: Information from BBC News, The New York Times, The Guardian, and CNN was used in this report.