US must lead as nuclear risk grows, says Shanmugam

US must lead as nuclear risk grows, says Shanmugam
From left, K Shanmugam, Gareth Evans, former Foreign Minister of Australia and Rt Hon Lord Des Browne, former Secretary of State for Defence, Scotland, at meeting organised by the Nuclear Security Project to focus on urgent nuclear dangers, at Mandarin Oriental, Nov 19 2013.

SINGAPORE - The world needs the United States to lead the way in reducing the dangers of nuclear proliferation, says Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam.

At a time when a growing number of political players with little or no experience in handling nuclear technology and weapons poses a growing threat to global and regional security, creative and focused leadership from the United States will be paramount in keeping the risks in check, he said.

Mr Shanmugam was speaking at the opening of the Nuclear Security Project Conference at the Mandarin Oriental on Tuesday.

In particular, Washington needs to assure countries dependent on its nuclear umbrella - those that rely on US protection instead of acquiring nuclear weaponry themselves - that its commitment to regional security is unwavering.

"If states begin to question the willingness of the United States to back up the nuclear umbrella, then it would not take very long for them to start acquiring their own weaponry, then we would have the same action and reaction issues," he said.

Mr Shanmugam noted that the issue is particularly acute in East Asia, where some countries already have the technology and thus could achieve credible nuclear forces quickly.

"That power is not going to be good for the region," he warned.

Mr Shanmugam observed that the global environment is riskier today, even though nuclear stockpiles have been reduced. During the Cold War, "mutual assured destruction ensured some measure of safety, because of the way nuclear weapons were in the hands of the superpowers, the Soviet Union and the US", he noted.

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