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WASHINGTON - Acting as much like a head of state as the head of a state, Gov. Jerry Brown joined President Obama and leaders of more than 50 nations in Washington on Thursday for a two-day global summit aimed at stopping nuclear proliferation.
Gov. Brown joins heads of state at nuclear summit
Updated 9:16 pm, Thursday, March 31, 2016
Photo: Rich Pedroncelli, AP
Brown shares with Obama a deep concern about the threats posed by both nuclear arms and climate change, which Obama also addressed Thursday during a simultaneous bilateral summit with Chinese president Xi Jinping. The two world leaders pledged to sign the global climate accord reached last year at talks in Paris — which Brown also attended — on April 22, Earth Day.
Brown also said a video created by a fellow panelist, former Clinton Defense Secretary William Perry, “scared the hell out of him.” Called “Nuclear Nightmare in Washington,” the video depicts a terrorist setting off a nuclear explosive on Pennsylvania Avenue, killing tens of thousands of people and decapitating the government.
“It’s goodbye America as a democracy,” Brown said, adding that such an event would put the country under military control.
“The fact that you don’t hear a lot about it doesn’t mean it isn’t real,” Brown said of the threat. He cited the terrorist attack in San Bernardino by a county employee, Syed Rizwan Farook, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik.
Farook’s fellow workers gave him a baby shower, “and he comes back and kills 14 of them ... there are people who want to do this,” he said.
Perry, who now heads the Preventive Defense Project at Stanford University, told the group that the danger from nuclear weapons is higher now than it was during the Cold War, because more countries have the weapons and terrorists are trying to get them.
The event was sponsored by the Atlantic Council and Global Zero, a group pushing for the elimination of nuclear weapons. It was one of several events outside the summit where critics said Obama has not done enough to fulfill his pledge seven years ago to help rid the world of nuclear weapons. Ploughshares Fund, a San Francisco anti-nuclear group, said the administration has laid the groundwork to spend $1 trillion over the next 30 years updating the nuclear arsenal.
But in an op-ed in the Washington Post published Thursday, Obama singled out the potential for nuclear catastrophe as “the most dangerous” immediate threat to global security.
Brown, an intellectual politician who ran for president three times, is not shy about mingling with world leaders.
Asked whether attending nuclear summits in Washington is part of his job, he replied: “It is my job as the highest elected executive outside the president. We also have our own weapons labs. This is a matter of democratic concern, and it isn’t just for the elites.”
The White House Nuclear Security Summit, the fourth held by the administration, focused this year on confronting North Korea’s nuclear provocations, including a recent nuclear test, and on preventing the Islamic State from obtaining nuclear weapons, a rising concern following the terrorist group’s deadly attacks on Brussels and Paris.
The summit came two days after GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump suggested in a televised town hall that Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons.
Carolyn Lochhead is the San Francisco Chronicle’s Washington correspondent. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org