Canada pledges $28M at Hague summit to combat nuclear terrorism

Canada is pledging $28 million towards efforts to combat weapons of mass destruction, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Tuesday as the nuclear safety summit wraps up in The Hague, Netherlands.

We'll also open our doors to nuclear safety inspections by international experts

Prime Minister Stephen Harper takes part in a meeting during the nuclear security summit in The Hague, Netherlands, on Tuesday. Canada is among 35 countries to sign an international agreement on nuclear safety. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Canada is pledging $28 million towards efforts to combat weapons of mass destruction, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Tuesday as the nuclear safety summit wraps up in The Hague, Netherlands.

"The potential loss of life and destruction of property from a nuclear device of any kind would obviously be devastating," he said.

The funds will be channelled through Canada's Global Partnership Program, which will support projects to prevent the trafficking of illegal weapons and secure nuclear facilities in countries in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

A number of projects will be delivered in partnership with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),which Canada has belonged to since 1957.

The $28 million is among a myriad of announcements Harper made Tuesday.

Building upon commitments made at the 2012 nuclear safety summit in South Korea, Canada also ratified two international conventions — the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials and the International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.

The first is the world's only legally binding agreement to physically protect nuclear materials and increases the ability for states to locate and recover stolen goods. 

The second, broader convention covers criminal acts, allowing states to share information and assist with investigations and extradition proceedings in order to prevent terrorist attacks.

Guidelines to become law

Along with signing onto two conventions, Canada agreed it would open its doors to allow teams of international experts to inspect the country's nuclear security measures, as well as turn international guidelines into national law. 

As part of the pledge, Harper said Canada will host an IAEA expert mission by the end of 2015.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, far right, stands next to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe while posing for a photo on the last day of the nuclear safety summit on Tuesday. (Robin van Lonkhuijsen/The Associated Press)

"The most difficult challenge terrorists face is obtaining fissile material, either plutonium or highly enriched uranium. The commitments made at all three nuclear security summits have done much to prevent that from ever happening," Harper said.

The initiative, as agreed upon by 35 countries at the nuclear summit, is intended to prevent nuclear terrorism by boosting international confidence in other countries' measures.

"The admission of external experts is a powerful tool," according to the nuclear safety summit's website. 

"Countries generally follow the experts’ recommendations because otherwise the impression could arise that their security practices are not up to standard."

However, the 35 countries (which include the United States, South Korea and Israel) that agreed to participate represents only about two-thirds of those attending the summit.

Notably absent from the group is Russia, China and India. 

International discussions on nuclear safety have been largely overshadowed by the crisis in Ukraine and tense relations between the West and Russia. 

The situation in Ukraine adds another layer of context, as the country agreed to give up its arsenal of nuclear weapons between 1994 and 1996 in exchange for protection against threats to its territorial integrity, as was enshrined in the Budapest Memorandum. 

Russia confirmed the annexation of the Crimean peninsula last week. 

Possible China trip this year

While at the summit, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told Chinese President Xi Jinping he may visit China later this year.

The two men met briefly on the margins of the nuclear security summit in The Hague, just a day after G7 leaders pulled themselves out of the G8 with Russia and decided to boycott the upcoming Sochi summit in order to hold one of their own in Brussels in June.

Harper expressed his condolences to Xi regarding the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which officials now believe went down in the southern Indian Ocean. About two-thirds of the plane's passengers were from China.

The two also discussed Gov. Gen. David Johnston's recent trip to the country.

A visit from Harper would be the first to China since his government approved a $15.1-billion bid for Nexen Inc. by Chinese state oil company CNOOC in December 2012.

At the time, Harper also announced new guidelines for evaluating proposed takeovers of Canadian companies by state-owned enterprises, which would help evaluate the possible influence of a foreign government in the enterprise.

Foreign ownership limits

The guidelines mean CNOOC's bid could be one of the last foreign state-owned company takeovers in the oilsands. The new rules say that from now on those bids will only be granted in exceptional circumstances.

Harper also met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the second and final day of the summit, which has been focused on ensuring the globe's nuclear materials cannot be acquired by extremist groups. 

The two leaders discussed trade and touched on the G7's concerns about the Russian crisis. Both Canada and Japan are in the G7, and Japan is Canada's fourth-largest trading partner, with bilateral merchandise trade exceeding $24 billion in 2013.

With files from Susan Lunn and The Canadian Press