Nuclear bombs may fall into wrong hands, experts warn

Alexz Olesen,SINGAPORE, AP

Defense experts at a security conference in Singapore warned Sunday of the dangers of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists.

U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said the concern that “nuclear weapons or scientists with nuclear expertise fall into the hands of rogue regimes or terrorist groups is a very, very real one.”

“The events of Sept. 11 if anything ought to intensify our concerns about it,” he said.

Wolfowitz said the possibility of terrorists developing nuclear capabilities was “more frightening and dangerous” than nuclear proliferation among nation states.

Robert Einhorn, former U.S. assistant secretary of state and a nuclear proliferation expert, said Southeast Asian ports in particular need to beef up security to help prevent such proliferation.

“Governments should put in place strong shipment and transshipment controls to reduce the likelihood that their countries will become conduits for the ingredients of weapons of mass destruction programs worldwide,” Einhorn said.

The discussion on nuclear nonproliferation was one of a several seminars at a two-day conference organized by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies attended by more than 150 defense officials.

Maj. Gen. Kim Kook-hun, head of the South Korean defense ministry’s arms disarmament bureau and a panelist in the discussion, said his government was deeply concerned about North Korea’s acquisition of weapons of mass destruction.

U.S. President George W. Bush has singled out North Korea as a point in what he called an “axis of evil.”