By Merle D. Kellerhals Jr.
Washington, (RPRN) 04/06/09 â€” President Obama vowed that the United States will take concrete steps toward a world free of nuclear weapons.Obama said he and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev began the weapons-reduction process while attending the G20 Financial Summit in London April 1â€“2. The current START-I Treaty between the two countries expires December 5 this year.
â€œWe will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy and urge others to do the same,â€ Obama said in an April 5 speech in Hradcanske Square outside the medieval Prague Castle in the Czech Republic. â€œTo reduce our warheads and stockpiles, we will negotiate a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with the Russians this year.â€
At the U.S.-European Union Summit in Prague, Obama said he and Medvedev will seek to include all nuclear weapons states in the process of reducing arsenals.
Obama is on an eight-day trip to Europe that marks his entry on the world stage. He began in London at the G20 summit, and then attended the 2009 NATO Summit held in Strasbourg, France, and Kehl, Germany, April 3â€“4 before arriving in Prague for the U.S.-EU Summit. He concludes the trip April 6 in Ankara and Istanbul, Turkey.
â€œTo achieve a global ban on nuclear testing, my administration will immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. After more than five decades of talks, it is time for the testing of nuclear weapons to finally be banned,â€ Obama said.
Obama said that if the world is serious about halting the spread of nuclear weapons, then it must also be equally serious about stopping the production of weapons-grade materials used to create them. â€œTogether we will strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a basis for cooperation,â€ the president said.
The Czech Republic is one of two East European nations selected for a limited U.S. missile defense system. The United States plans to locate 10 silo-launched anti-missile rockets in Poland that are designed to knock down intercontinental ballistic missiles, and a radar early-warning system in the Czech Republic.
The system is designed to protect U.S. allies from a potential threat posed by a rogue nation with nuclear weapons, such as Iran or North Korea. North Korea launched a three-stage Taepodong-2 missile April 4 that fell harmlessly into the Pacific Ocean shortly after liftoff.
â€œAs long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward with a missile system that is cost-effective and proven,â€ the president said. â€œIf 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.â€
The president said North Koreaâ€™s actions April 4 illustrate why every effort needs to be made to address the threats posed by the possession of nuclear weapons. And Obama said his administration will seek engagement with Iran based on mutual interests and mutual respect.
Because of the threat of terrorists obtaining nuclear weapons, Obama said he is launching a new international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials worldwide within four years. â€œWe will set new standards, expand our cooperation with Russia, pursue new partnerships to lock down these sensitive materials,â€ he said.
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