Lee says threat of terror groups laying hands on nuclear weapons real

Lee says Singapore's position as a major transshipment hub increases its role in nuclear safety and non-proliferation.

The prospect of terrorists being able to use devices bought off the black market to launch nuclear attacks is quite possible, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said.

The threat of terror agents getting access to components for dirty bombs has to be taken seriously by world leaders, the prime minister added, while speaking at the nuclear security summit in the US.

Lee said Singapore's position as a major trans-shipment hub increases the city state's responsibilities in nuclear safety and non-proliferation.

"We could be a place where illicit material passes through. We could be a target of attack. Even if the incident occurs beyond our borders, its spill-over effects could affect our population. Therefore, we actively support counter-proliferation and nuclear disarmament, Lee said.

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama appealed to the world to stop "madmen" from laying hands on nuclear weapons and materials for a dirty bomb.

"There is no doubt that if these madmen ever got their hands on a nuclear bomb or nuclear material, they most certainly would use it to continue to kill as many innocent people as possible," Obama said at the summit.

More than 50 heads of state are participating in the final edition of the nuclear summit, which focuses on the risks in civilian nuclear sector, apart from the reduction of warheads and non-proliferating efforts.

Lee, speaking at a plenary session, said Singapore put in place strict security protocols in the country since the first nuclear security summit in 2010. There have been cargo interceptions and confiscation from time to time. Every case of nuclear fuel transiting through the country is tracked, Lee said. Singapore has put in place a secure export control regime and upgraded its radiation screening technology at all ports.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Lee also highlighted the threat from Isis in the larger region. The prime minister said the security threat posed by Isis is worse than the one posed by al-Qaeda.

Threat from isis

He demonstrated the potential threat from terror outfits by highlighting the references to nuclear attacks made in Islamic State's propaganda magazine Dabiq. He said while a nuclear attack by terrorists isn't an imminent threat, the world should take steps to foreclose that possibility.

"I hope this summit will see countries committing to reduce their nuclear material stockpiles further, which can make for ready terrorist targets," Lee said.

Lee also discussed the threat to regional security that North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes pose. "I hope all countries will encourage (North Korea) to restrain itself and work towards denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula," he said.