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Obama reiterates his commitment to a nuke-free future

26 March 2012

6:06 PM

26 March 2012

6:06 PM

As leaders from 53 nations gather in Seoul for the second Nuclear Security Summit, President Obama spoke of his ‘vision
of a world without nuclear weapons’. It’s a vision he described during his 2008 campaign, and which was later the
focus of his 2009 speech in Prague. Today, as then, he talked about the ‘obligation’ he feels to act on this in
strikingly personal terms:

‘I say it as a father, who wants my two young daughters to grow up in a world where everything they know and love can’t be instantly wiped out.’

Obama detailed his efforts to reduce America’s arsenal, to get other
countries to reduce theirs, and to improve the security of nuclear material around the globe. ‘Step by step’, he said, ‘we come closer to the security and peace of a world without
nuclear weapons’.

But Obama’s opponents present a much darker vision of where his efforts will lead. Earlier this month, Mitt Romney declared that

‘If Barack Obama is re-elected, Iran will have a nuclear weapon and the world will change if that’s the case.’

And a new ad from Rick Santorum asks viewers to ‘imagine a small American town two years from now, if Obama is re-elected’. Among
other apocalyptic terrors, it flashes between pictures of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Obama, and tells us that

‘every day, the residents of this town must come to grips with the harsh reality that a rogue nation – and sworn American enemy – has become a nuclear threat’.

Obama has been trying hard to address this sort of criticism. Earlier this month, he told the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC:

‘I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say. That includes all elements of American
power: a political effort aimed at isolating Iran, a diplomatic effort to sustain our coalition and ensure that the Iranian program is monitored, an economic effort that imposes crippling
sanctions and, yes, a military effort to be prepared for any contingency.

Iran’s leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And as I have made clear time and again
during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.’

And in his speech this morning, he had a warning for both Iran and North Korea:

‘For the global response to Iran and North Korea’s intransigence, a new international norm is emerging: Treaties are binding; rules will be enforced; and violations will have
consequences. We refuse to consign ourselves to a future where more and more regimes possess the world’s most deadly weapons.’

That might not be enough for Obama’s more hawkish critics, but it does look like Obama’s diplomatic approach is bearing some fruit. Before a meeting with Chinese President Hu
Jintao today, he emphasised the importance of their two
countries working together against nuclear proliferation in North Korea and Iran. And their meeting does seem to have produced a small but significant step forward on that front: according to the
White House, the two Presidents agreed to coordinate their countries’ responses to North Korea’s
planned rocket test. As I say, a small step, but the sort of multilateral pressure that might just bring about Obama’s vision.

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