By Paula Wolfson – Via VOA News
U.S. President Barack Obama is urging countries around the world to come together to meet a common goal: the elimination of nuclear weapons. Mr. Obama made the appeal Sunday after North Korea defied the international community and launched a long range rocket. The North Korean action gave a new urgency to Mr. Obama’s call for a nuclear free world in a speech in the Czech capital.
President Obama is urging North Korea to halt its nuclear weapons program.
He says its rocket launch poses a global threat that warrants a United Nations Security Council response.
“North Korea broke the rules, once again, by testing a rocket that could be used for long-range missiles,” said Mr. Obama.
The president says the North Korean launch proves the need for nations to come together to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and to eliminate those that already exist.
“This provocation underscores the need for action – not just this afternoon at the UN Security Council, but in our determination to prevent the spread of these weapons. Rules must be binding,” said Mr. Obama. “Violations must be punished. Words must mean something. The world must stand together to prevent the spread of these weapons.”
Mr. Obama spoke in a packed square on a hill in a city that was caught in the middle of the Cold War. He talked about generations that have grown up in a world where the threat of nuclear weapons is part of life. He said that reality must change.
“Today I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons!” said Mr. Obama.
President Obama laid out a process with three components: reduce current stockpiles, prevent further proliferation, and secure vulnerable nuclear materials to keep them from falling into the wrong hands.
He talked about his desire to reach a new strategic arms reduction treaty with Russia, and to strengthen the current global non-proliferation pact. He also said he would seek U.S. Senate ratification of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and would convene a summit on nuclear security.
The president made clear the task of creating a nuclear free world will be long and difficult and may not be completed in his lifetime. He detailed the challenges – including Iran.
Mr. Obama said Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile activity poses a real threat not just to the United States but to Iran’s neighbors and American allies in Europe. He said that is why the United States has proposed a missile defense system with components in Poland and the Czech Republic.
“As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward with a missile defense system that is cost effective and proven,” he continued. “If the Iranian threat is eliminated we will have a stronger basis for security and the driving force for missile defense construction in Europe will be removed.”
Mr. Obama said the United States – as the only nation ever to use a nuclear weapon – has a responsibility to act to reduce the global nuclear threat. He said America can lead the effort, but stressed the United States cannot do it alone.