One issue left unresolved by last week’s Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul is how to integrate the summits with several similar initiatives. Like the summits, these other mechanisms have emerged to respond to a new threat not anticipated by the architects of the original nuclear nonproliferation regime, that of nuclear terrorism.
The unprecedented geopolitical and technological developments of the past two decades have enabled terrorist groups and other violent nonstate actors, sometimes supported by state sponsors, to exploit illicit trafficking networks to acquire dangerous nuclear technologies and materials. The process of globalization has also meant that countries lacking adequate nuclear security measures can unwittingly provide support and safe havens for terrorists.
The international nuclear nonproliferation regime, centered on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), was not designed to counter nonstate threats. The NSS and related initiatives aim to supplement the protection provided by the NPT against nation states illegally seeking nuclear weapons by erecting defenses focused on nonstate threats.