The race for nuclear power has begun in the Middle East in response to fears of an Iranian nuclear threat.
The move towards nuclear technology in a region where barely half of the population graduates high school, let alone matriculates in a post-secondary school institution, was triggered by U.S. reluctance to reign in Tehran and the hostility of the Obama administration towards Israel.
Possibly in response to an editorial published this week in the English-language edition of the Saudi Arabia-based Al Arabiya,
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry flew straight to Riyadh yesterday after talks with Iran went on a brief hiatus in Montreaux.
But the leaders of Saudi Arabia have signed a $2 billion deal with South Korea to build at least two small and medium-size nuclear reactors, according to a report Tuesday in The Korea Herald.
The memorandum of understanding (MOU) calls for a feasibility study to build Korean SMART reactors in Saudi Arabia. The reactors, to be designed by the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute, are specifically intended for the generation of electricity and desalination of sea water in Middle Eastern nations, according to the report. Completion of the feasibility study is expected by 2018. The two nations previously signed a nuclear cooperation agreement in 2011.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye met Tuesday with Saudi King Salman on ways to strengthen bilateral relations between the two nations. Before arriving in Riyadh, Park had concluded a three-day visit to Kuwait.
Next on her itinerary are the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
Washington needs Saudi Arabia’s support in the region for a host of foreign policy reasons. As a result, Kerry is now working to convince the Riyadh government that President Barack Obama will not bargain away its interests at the table with Iran.
The U.S. “will not take our eye off of Iran’s other destabilizing actions in places like Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and the Arabian peninsula – Yemen particularly,” Kerry told a meeting of the foreign ministers from the six Gulf Cooperating Council (GCC) states.
The Secretary of State met earlier in the day with newly-crowned King Salman and deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef in his efforts to reassure Saudi Arabia that the U.S. was not seeking any “grand bargain” with the Islamic Republic.
“Nothing will be different the day after this agreement,” Kerry claimed, “if we were to reach one, with respect to all of the other issues that challenge us in this region.”