WASHINGTON - President Hu Jintao arrived here on Monday to attend the Nuclear Security Summit, which analysts say offers a new platform for major countries to work together and signals a change in their strategies on global security.
Before the two-day summit begins in the evening, Hu is scheduled to meet US President Barack Obama, Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych.
His entourage includes State Councilor Dai Bingguo, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and Li Yizhong, minister of industry and information technology.
In the one-on-one meeting between Hu and Obama, the two leaders will try to nurture a thaw in Sino-US relations after tensions spiked in recent months over a range of issues, Reuters reported.
The unprecedented summit, first suggested a year ago by Obama, aims at agreeing on concrete actions to prevent bomb-grade nuclear material from falling into the hands of terrorists.
Participants are expected to discuss how to thwart the growing threat of nuclear terrorism, secure nuclear materials and strengthen the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Representatives from the United Nations, the European Union and the IAEA will also attend the meeting.
At a parallel unofficial conference of more than 200 international nuclear experts, participants said too many around the world don't share the concern that nuclear terrorism is an urgent threat.
"There is a great complacency among policy makers around the world that terrorist groups couldn't make a nuclear bomb," said Matthew Bunn of Harvard University.
On the eve of what will be the largest assembly of world leaders hosted by an American president since 1945 - the San Francisco conference that led to the founding of the United Nations - Obama said nuclear materials in the hands of al-Qaida or other terrorist groups "could change the security landscape in this country and around the world for years to come".
The sessions are expected to close the next day with a joint statement on efforts to prevent the transfer of nuclear material and technology, and keep them secure
Fan Jishe, an expert on American studies at Beijing-based Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the leaders will focus on how to improve nuclear security within their countries, an issue on which there is substantial room for cooperation among world powers.
Liu Jiangyong, a senior analyst on Asia-Pacific studies at Tsinghua University, said extremist and terrorist groups pose the biggest threat to world security, which has prompted many countries to change their security strategies, citing the nuclear arms reduction agreement signed between the US and Russia last week.
The threat of nuclear terrorism has also forced many countries - which out of fear of nuclear attacks, have desperately sought to have their own arsenals - to review the role of nuclear weapons.
Zhang Xiaodong, deputy chief of the Chinese Association for Middle East Studies, told China Daily that nuclear weapons played a deterrent role during the Cold War; but now that the nuclear non-proliferation system faces serious challenges from terrorism, world powers have to find a way to cope with the changing situation.
As the US refines its nuclear weapon strategy, attention will turn to what other nations, including Russia and China, will do, he said.
Ai Yang contributed to the story