A White House official confirmed that U.S. envoys will push to establish global standards for safeguarding sensitive materials at an upcoming Nuclear Security Summit.
Washington is seeking "a core group of countries" to spearhead the adoption of potentially binding rules that could help prevent atomic materials from proliferating or falling into the hands of terrorists, said Laura Holgate, a senior director on the National Security Council staff.
Delegates from more than 50 countries are slated to gather for the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague in just a few weeks, and preparations have been ongoing behind the scenes about outcomes of the March 24-25 gathering.
The summits are seen as closely tied to President Obama's tenure in office. He conceptualized and hosted the inaugural such gathering in Washington in 2010.
Speaking at a March 3 event sponsored by Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum in Cambridge, Mass., Holgate said the efforts to further strengthen nuclear security must continue beyond formal biennial gatherings.
The core group of countries envisioned by the White House would help create an "architecture" for nuclear security, Holgate said, essentially lending a level of formality to what is now primarily a voluntary undertaking.
Global Security Newswire reported last month that the United States, the Netherlands and South Korea had begun soliciting pledges from summit participants aimed complying with international guidelines for the protection of nuclear materials.
Samantha Pitts-Kiefer, a senior program officer at the Nuclear Threat Initiative who spoke at the same event, called the time between the summits of 2014 and 2016 a "window of opportunity."
"If it closes and this work is not done, it’s going to be a problem because there is no institution right now to pick up the slack," Pitts-Kiefer said.
Holgate acknowledged that work also remains in convincing governments of the "base case" for securing their nuclear material -- namely, that preventing its theft is in both their individual interest and that of the international community.
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