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Conference to Examine Future of Nuclear Weapons

Former Secretary of Defense William Perry is scheduled to give the keynote address this afternoon, with Wednesday featuring panels and breakout sessions on more specific subjects.

It's tackling the most important national security problems we face.


This article was first published in The Daily Bruin.

By Julia Erlandson for The Daily Bruin

Experts including retired Gen. Wesley Clark are set to convene today on campus for a two-day conference aimed at discussing the future of nuclear weapons and proliferation.

The conference, hosted by UCLA's Burkle Center for International Relations, features scholars, government officials and journalists with knowledge of nuclear weapons issues, including four UCLA professors and former Chancellor Albert Carnesale.

"There's the eternal question of how do we deal with weapons of mass destruction," said Kal Raustiala, director of UCLA's International Institute and a host of the conference. "We wanted to get a wide array of perspectives."

Former Secretary of Defense William Perry is scheduled to give the keynote address this afternoon, with Wednesday featuring panels and breakout sessions on more specific subjects.

Clark, in his third appearance on campus since joining the Burkle Center as a senior fellow in September 2006, is set to speak today and moderate a discussion the second day. Raustiala said Clark was also a key conference organizer.

Except for an invitation-only lunch, the conference is open to the public, though attendees must register in advance.

Raustiala said panels will include question-and-answer sections during which members of the audience will be encouraged to participate.

"In my experience some of the best questions come from the audience, so I'm looking forward to a lively discussion," he said.

Panels will address aspects of the nuclear issue ranging from "regional threats," such as Iran and North Korea, to the question of whether the nuclear non-proliferation treaty can be modernized, according to the event's Web site.

Amy Zegart, a professor in UCLA's School of Public Affairs, is set to moderate a panel on nuclear terrorism.

Zegart, whose expertise is in organizational problems in U.S. intelligence agencies, said she believes the conference addresses relevant current issues.

"It's tackling the most important national security problems we face," she said, referring to the ongoing spread of nuclear weapons and what she called the changing face of terrorism.

Zegart added that she believes the possibility of nuclear terrorism should not be ignored, though she noted nuclear weapons and terrorism are separate issues that do not always converge.

"I think it's an absolutely frightening prospect, and one that's more likely than we think," she said.

The conference is scheduled to conclude with a discussion on challenges the next administration could face with regard to nuclear weapons.

"There's a constant threat of conflict. This is a critical time," Raustiala said. "I hope that the audience will understand the nuances and the details, as well as the big picture, in a new way."