Two contrasting views could present obstacles to upcoming global nuclear security summit

09:06, April 07, 2010      

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The United States' ultimate fear might be the sight of a mushroom cloud floating over the city of New York.

That seemed the stuff of science fiction films until the attacks of 9/11 proved the United States was vulnerable to a terrorist attack. But 9/11 would look like a mere practice run compared to the tsunami of destruction that a nuclear-armed terror group could unleash.

That is a big reason why U.S. President Barack Obama is hosting the Global Nuclear Security Summit on April 12th and 13th in Washington, D.C. Obama has on numerous occasions said he views nuclear terrorism as the most deadly threat to global security and wants to help develop a plan of action to secure vulnerable nuclear materials within four years.

And while most experts agree the odds of a terror group mounting a successful nuclear attack on the United States is low, the devastation would be so great that Obama is taking that possibility very seriously.

The summit's purpose is to figure out how to start securing vulnerable nuclear material worldwide, prevent nuclear smuggling, foil attempts at nuclear terrorism and to demonstrate commitment to the issue, and more than 40 heads of state will descend on the U.S. capital to discuss what each is willing to do.

But some nations place a higher priority on the issue than others, and that could present a hurdle.

Indeed, when it comes to nuclear security, there are roughly two camps -- the "nuclear threatened," or those nations who see nuclear terrorism as a major national security risk, and the " nuclear non-threatened," or those who do not.

The "nuclear threatened" tend to be developed nations targeted by groups such as al-Qaida, especially the United States. The " nuclear non-threatened" tend to be developing countries, although there are a number of exceptions, such as India, which has been the target of terror attacks.

"There is a significant perception gap between in particular the United States and the developing world on how serious the threat of nuclear terrorism is," said Kenneth Luongo, president of the Partnership for Global Security, a non profit promoting efforts to secure weapons of mass destruction.

"The reason is that 9/11 is seared into the American psyche and we are obviously not as well protected as we could be and we are target number one," he said.

While no one is against keeping nuclear materials out of terrorists' hands, many developing countries must contend with what they view as more pressing problems, such as food, clean water, jobs and economic development, he said.

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