Washington: Safeguarding loose nuclear materials around the globe is a top priority for the United States and it is prepared to provide assistance to Belgium in protecting nuclear facilities, the White House has said ahead of this week's Nuclear Security Summit here which would be attended by world leaders including from India, China and Japan.
"I would anticipate that issues related to nuclear materials and safeguarding them is high on the agenda (of the Nuclear Security Summit). This is obviously something that is a top priority," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at his daily news conference on Monday.
The summit is more focused on those nuclear materials that are not under the same kind of careful watchful eye that they are in Belgium, he said when asked about reports that the terrorists behind the Brussels attack were also conducting surveillance of nuclear sites in the country.
"We understand that the Belgian government has decided to employ on-site military quick-response teams at nuclear plants and research centres while it determines what other actions may be necessary. Obviously, ensuring the safety of those kinds of facilities can and should be a top priority," he said.
"As with other elements of the steps that Belgium has taken to protect our country, we are prepared to offer
assistance if necessary in safeguarding Belgium's nuclear facilities," Earnest said.
He said that President Barack Obama made this a priority because this was an issue that he worked on prior to entering the White House. "The President spent a decent amount of time working across the aisle with Senator Dick Lugar of Indiana on efforts around the globe to safeguard nuclear materials," he said.
"This has been a priority for the President since before he took office. That is why we created a venue like the
Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) to give additional attention to this issue and to make clear to the Americans and governments around the world that this is a top priority of the US," he said.
"The next President will come in with a mandate to make their own decisions about what elements of our national security need to be prioritised and what is the best way to do that," Earnest said.