U.S., Singapore Team for Seaport Security

SINGAPORE, March 10 (Kyodo) - The United States agreed Thursday to help Singapore install special equipment at its seaports to detect hidden shipments of nuclear and other radioactive materials.

The agreement inked by representatives of the two governments in Singapore paves the way for U.S. provision of the specialized radiation detection technology to the city-state and training of local law enforcement personnel to operate it. ''Singapore will be the first country in Southeast Asia to use this type of detection system in cooperation with the United States,'' according to a joint statement issued by the two sides.

The United States has also inked such agreements with the Bahamas, Belgium, Greece, the Netherlands, Spain and Sri Lanka. The agreements fall under the Megaports Initiative of the U.S. Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration.

That initiative is aimed at preventing a nuclear or dirty bomb attack on the United States by stopping illicit shipments of nuclear and other radioactive materials as they cross a country's borders.

It complements the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Container Security Initiative, introduced soon after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, under which U.S. customs officers have been assigned to Singapore to alert authorities in the city-state when they receive any intelligence of suspect U.S.-bound cargo passing through.

In connection with the initiative, Singapore had also bought and installed two gamma-ray scanners costing about US$1.8 million each at its seaports to screen cargo for any hidden contraband that could pose a security risk.