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Leadership Networks Gather in Singapore to Address Urgent Nuclear Threats

Leadership Networks Gather in Singapore to Address Urgent Nuclear Threats

More than 30 high-profile global leaders from 20 countries across five continents came together in Singapore on November 19-20 to address nuclear threats ranging from proliferation and weapons build-up across Asia to the need for nuclear force postures that increase warning and decision time for leaders.

The meeting was the first-ever gathering of the four regional leadership networks that work with the Nuclear Security Project: the Asia Pacific Leadership Network, the European Leadership Network, the Latin American Leadership Network and the newly formed Nuclear Security Leadership Council, which is based in North America.

"These regional networks, working together, can bring needed urgency and focus to nuclear issues in their regions and globally," former U.S. senator and Nuclear Threat Initiative Co-Chairman Sam Nunn said.  "They also can play a key role in developing and proposing to governments new approaches to regional conflicts that fuel threats in Asia and around the world."

Convened by Nunn, former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz and former U.S. Secretary of Defense Bill Perry, the Singapore meeting also included network leaders Des Browne, Gareth Evans, Irma Arguello, Brooke Anderson and Gary Roughead.

During the conference, leaders pledged to take action on several steps including: Calling for global standards to secure nuclear materials; finding means of reducing the salience and role of nuclear weapons; and finding ways to take weapons off of the prompt launch posture.

The participants expressed concern about the Cold War mindset among some policymakers and the fact that nuclear stockpiles continue to increase in the Asia-Pacific region. Professor Kishore Mahbubani, APLN member, stated that the two leading nuclear powers, the United States and Russia, must set an example "with deeds, not words" in persuading Asian countries to disarm. Gareth Evans noted that "the proposition that nuclear weapons can be retained in perpetuity by any state and never used accidentally or by decision defies credibility" warning that "any use of nuclear weapons would be catastrophic."

The meeting received high-level attention from officials in Singapore and the news media. The Minister of Foreign Affairs in Singapore, Hon. K Shanmugam told participants that the world today faces nuclear risks from aspiring nuclear powers and states that are not part of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In addition, "non-state actors pose a greater risk due to their unpredictability and their anonymity," he said. Shultz, Perry and Nunn also met with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during the course of the two-day meeting.

Regional print, radio and broadcast news media covered the events, including Channel News Asia. In remarks during a news conference on Nov. 20, Nunn said the Singapore meeting brought officials together to "discuss how we can join forces (and) learn from each other." He noted that "we are in a new era of threats—driven by technology and economics—and the possibility that the materials and know-how for making weapons of mass destruction becomes available to both new states and non-governmental actors." Perry called for global standards for securing weapons-usable nuclear materials. "We have global standards (for) flying airplanes," he said. "Why don't we have standards for fissile materials?" Added Shultz: "Every part of the world has to be together on this. It's a global issue."