Obama in push for 'world without nuclear weapons'


Barack Obama described his "vision of a world without nuclear weapons"

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US President Barack Obama says he is pushing for "a world without nuclear weapons", making direct appeals to North Korea and Iran.

He also pledged to work with Russia and China, speaking ahead of a summit in Seoul aimed at reducing the risk of nuclear terrorism.

He emphasised the US's unique position to seek change but said "serious sustained global effort" was needed.

The meeting is being attended by representatives from some 50 countries.

Speaking to students at Hankuk University, Mr Obama reiterated the commitment of the US as ''the only nation to have ever used nuclear weapons'' to reducing its nuclear arms stockpile.

He also spoke, he said, as a father who did not want to see his daughters growing up in a world with nuclear threats, a comment which drew applause from his student audience.


Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, there have been fears about nuclear materials falling into the hands of terrorists and extremists.

In the United States, such concerns took on added significance in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington. Washington and its key allies - like the UK - are convinced that al-Qaeda is seeking to obtain material for a nuclear or radiological bomb.

In April 2010, President Barack Obama convened a summit in Washington that set the ambitious goal of securing all vulnerable nuclear materials worldwide within four years. Some progress has been made - for example Chile returned highly enriched uranium to the US; Kazakhstan has moved spent fuel to a secure depot; and Ukraine has transferred fissile material to a Russian storage site.

But progress has been patchy, in part because the initial goal set in 2010 was vague without a detailed timeline or work plan. Now, two years on, this Seoul summit will try to create new momentum.

The US president said he was looking forward to meeting newly-elected Russian President Vladimir Putin in May to discuss further nuclear arms cuts.

Mr Obama would seek to follow on from the New Start (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) pact he struck in 2010 with outgoing Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev in 2010, he said.

The New Start deal agreed between Washington and Moscow was intended to replace its lapsed predecessor, Start.

It trims US and Russian nuclear arsenals to 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads - a cut of about 30% from a limit set previously.

The treaty would also allow each side visually to inspect the other's nuclear capability, with the aim of verifying how many warheads each missile carries.

In addition, there will be legally binding limits on the number of warheads and missiles that can be deployed on land, on submarines, and on bombers, at any one time.

Warning to Pyongyang

In Asia, President Obama said, the US has invited China to work with Washington and ''that offer remains open''.

"We both have an interest in making sure that international norms surrounding non-proliferation, preventing destabilising nuclear weapons, is very important," he said ahead of a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Start Quote

Today, we say: Pyongyang, have the courage to pursue peace”

End Quote Barack Obama US President

He also addressed North Korea's nuclear ambitions directly in his speech at Hankuk University, saying that the US has ''no hostile intent'' towards the country, but ''there will be no rewards for provocation''.

He warned Pyongyang that its planned long-range missile launch would only increase its isolation.

Pyongyang says it is preparing to launch a long-range missile which it says will put a satellite in orbit.

''You can continue with the road you are on but we know where that leads,'' he said, addressing the North Korean leaders directly.

''Today, we say: Pyongyang, have the courage to pursue peace.''

Earlier, he and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said North Korea risked further sanctions and isolation if it did not cancel its launch plans.

President Obama: ''Today, we say: Pyongyang, have the courage to pursue peace"

The launch will contravene an agreement Pyongyang reached last month which would have seen it receive food aid in exchange for a partial freeze on nuclear activities and an end to ballistics tests.

The North also agreed to allow UN inspectors in, the US said.

The invitation comes three months after Kim Jong-un came to power following the death of his father, Kim Jong-il.

The North said the launch - between 12 and 16 April - would mark the 100th birthday of former leader Kim Il-sung.

South Korea has warned it will shoot down the rocket if it strays over its territory.

"We are preparing measures to track the missile's trajectory and shoot it down if it, by any chance, deviates from the planned route and falls into our territory," a defence ministry spokesman said.

The launch site is in north-western North Korea, not far from the Chinese border.

'Time is short'

Addressing Iran, Mr Obama said there was still time to resolve the impasse over its nuclear programme through diplomacy.

"But time is short,'' he warned. ''Iran must act with the seriousness and sense of urgency that this moment demands."

Iran insists there is no military element to its programme but Western powers fear it is constructing nuclear weapons.

"Today, I'll meet with the leaders of Russia and China as we work to achieve a resolution in which Iran fulfils its obligations," Mr Obama added.

Despite lofty announcements it may prove difficult to achieve significant progress at the summit, says the BBC's Jonathan Marcus.

The summit agenda is to be expanded to include a wide variety of radiological materials which terrorists could use to make a dirty bomb - one that spreads radiological contamination rather than initiating a nuclear explosion

But experts say there is unlikely to be agreement on converting all nuclear power stations to use low-enriched fuel.

Nor will there be agreement on common standards for nuclear security.

Some countries see this whole process as highly intrusive.

And there is still no common appreciation of the level of threat posed by nuclear terrorism, our correspondent says.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    === =========
    Unfortunately the Almighty UN has no teeth!!!

    Where were they all, when we were for forty years under the Soviet Union boot?

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    Japan managed to come out of the war without the 'guilt' that all Germans were forced to live with for 50 years even though they committed similar levels of atrocities

    I think the main reason Japan was left well alone though was because it was nuked.

    To pretend the palestinians didn't approve of Hitler's treatment of the Jews (in part at least) make the rest of your arguments look daft.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    Of a total of approx. 19,000 nuclear inventory worldwide (operational, non-deployed and stockpiled), the US and Russia account for 18,500 (FAS, 2012). One 1 megaton nuclear bomb is enough to wipe out the largest city on Earth. Right now, we are two-legged lemmings running backwards. It will take more than 30 years to totally disarm at the present rate: assuming everyone is peace-loving that is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    Promises of reducing nuclear stockpile by the US and Russia have been made for decades now. Reduction does not amount to total elimination. The axiom "If you want peace, prepare for war" prevails even in this era as fear and hatred dominates the classified agenda. Trust and friendship is more a matter of convenience than human-bonding. One Obama is not enough for many erupting megalomaniacs..

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    Peter_Sym "Of course on HYS the worst war crimes committed by nasty little dictators are always excused with the funniest justifications."

    Cf. Commie dictators of Cambodia and Cuba (invading Angola and Mozambique as Soviet proxies), Chinese Commie dictators invading Tibet and E.Turkestan.
    Sudan Muslim regime murdering Christians, just like ayatollahs - Iranian Bahaists and Zoroastrians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    36.Controlled Pair

    There was an alliance but it certainly wasn't ideological as you seem to imply, Haj Mohammed Effendi Amin el-Husseini met with Hitler as a strategic measure to gain support for Arab independence especially in the light of Britains pro-zionist policies in the 30s. However if you want to blame Palestine for the holocaust then you might as well blame Japan, being Nazi allies

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    48. Levap
    They lost the military capacity to defend themselves.
    Yes, but we have the mighty UN these days! Do you really think that getting rid of nuclear weapons would diminish our security? Surely if we were justified in using them we'd have a great many allies prepared to jump in our behalf too if we no longer had them. And we've still got pretty decent conventional weapons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    "Interesting that none of those America-haters suggests that China, Iran, Pakistan, etc. -disarm first."

    For me, the only problem with the US is the constant double-standards. They shout "we've dropped them, they're horrible!" but then use that as further justification to keep them. It's backwards logic; expecting voluntary peace whilst holding a nuclear gun to the head(s) of the world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    Your kidding if you think the US will give up its nuclear weapons. The gas guzzling giant is running out of oil, and wars are expensive and require huge amounts of fuel. Something tells me those weapons of genocide will be a far better economic choice for wars in the future.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    america isn't only country who can nuclear power all countries have that right

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    It's high time governments stepped away from words to actions. It is a credit to Obama that he more than any other politician is concerned with nuclear weapons issue. However, he is also a part of power politics game, which is why he is not fully capable to do what he feels is right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.


    It's more the case that the civilisations that you refer to over-extended themselves and subsequently collapsed under their own mass.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    To all who doesn't want to know, why we don't get rid of nuclear weapons. It is time that you hit history books and learn about all the civilizations that preceded current the Western civilizations and their fate. They all have one common denominator- they lost the military capacity to defend themselves! It is easy to figure out the benefits.
    It is also sad part of our existence on this planet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    You know, Britain and Russia, back in WWII, invaded Iran and used it's oil reserves, to allow it's forces to operate in eastern Europe/Russia.

    It took several years to get Russia out of N. Iran.

    And quite a few decades to get it out of oil-rich Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan &Turkmenistan.

    [btw. a significant portion of Iran's population is actually Azeri]

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    This has nothing to do with PEACE.

    It is purely about America trying to reduce its $15 Trillion debt, but using 'goodwill' as an excuse.

    Whatever they reduce, I am sure there will still be enough left to anhialate most of humanity...

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    I'm sure history will look back on Obama as a heroic president. He goes straight for the most important issues and even though the media has got bored of it, the nuclear threat is no less serious today as it was back in the 50's - 60's.

    Unfortunately, eventually some agressive republican president will get in and help Israel start a nuclear disaster that will affect us all....

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.


    "Interesting that none of those America-haters suggests that China, Iran, Pakistan, etc. -disarm first."

    Too true! In their eyes only the west can do evil. When there is a fault with America, they foam at the mouth and can't wait to criticise. When there is a fault with a country in the ME/Asia etc they refuse to acknowledge it and say "none of our business".


  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    #42 You do know how many countries Russia has invaded recently don't you? Chechnya & Georgia are just the most obvious.

    Of course on HYS the worst war crimes committed by nasty little dictators are always excused with the funniest justifications.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    #7: "Why has it always been the case that the loony left/CND/mindless hippys, demand that the Western democracies disarm first? Why not Pakistan? Or Russia?"

    Setting a good example? Avoiding hypocrisy? Because other countries are fed up of getting lectured on WMDs by the architects of the Iraq invasion? …Saving shedloads of money to spend on health, education or energy security, perhaps?

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Comment number 6 is an Editors' Pick

    I don't understand why we don't get rid of our nuclear weapons.

    Because they're much safer than chemical/biological weapons which can be produced cheaply and used anonymously by almost anybody with impunity, especially when transfered to rogue states' proxies - shadowy terrorist groups [al-Qaida, Hamas, Hezbollah, etc.]


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