PRAGUE — This morning outside the Prague Castle, speaking to tens of thousands of fAmerican- and Czech Republic-flag-waving Czechs, President Obama addressed North Korea’s missile launch within the context of a larger address about aspiring towards a nuclear weapon-free world.
"Today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons," he said. "This goal will not be reached quickly – perhaps not in my lifetime. It will take patience and persistence. But now we, too, must ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change."
The president directly addressed those who think it’s likely too late to rid the world of these weapons — that the proverbial genie is out of the bottle.
“Some argue that the spread of these weapons cannot be checked – that we are destined to live in a world where more nations and more people possess the ultimate tools of destruction," he said. "This fatalism is a deadly adversary. For if we believe that the spread of nuclear weapons is inevitable, then we are admitting to ourselves that the use of nuclear weapons is inevitable."
Standing by a statue of Dr. Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk , the founder and first President of Czechoslovakia., President Obama presented some new policy proposals to set the world down this path:
- An international fuel bank "so that countries can access peaceful power without increasing the risks of proliferation";“
- A "new international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years";
- A Global Summit on Nuclear Security that will be hosted by the U.S. within the next year; and
- A new treaty to end the production of fissile materials intended for use state nuclear weapons.
The president also repeated his support for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty with a new sense of urgency, saying he would "immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification" of the treaty. "After more than five decades of talks, it is time for the testing of nuclear weapons to finally be banned. “
"Just this morning, we were reminded of why we need a new and more rigorous approach to address this threat," the President said, accusing North Korea of of breaking the rules by violating United Nations resolutions.
"Rules must be binding," the president said. "Violations must be punished. Words must mean something. The world must stand together to prevent the spread of these weapons. Now is the time for a strong international response, and North Korea must know that the path to the security and respect will never come through threats and illegal weapons."
Even as he heralded the pending negotiations between the U.S. and Russia on further reducing the two countries’ nuclear arsenals, the president also raised a sticky subject between the two — the missile defense shield the U.S. government has discussed building in Poland and the Czech Republic, which Russian leaders have said is provocative.
President Obama has suggested to Russian President Medvedev that if Russia helped ssuccessfully top Iran’s nuclear weapons program, there would be no need for such a defense shield, though White House officials insist the discussion was not made as a quid pro quo.
Today president Obama said that since "Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile activity poses a real threat, not just to the United States, but to Iran’s neighbors and our allies," the U.S. "intend(s) to go forward with a missile defense system that is cost-effective and proven. If the Iranian threat is eliminated, we will have a stronger basis for security, and the driving force for missile defense construction in Europe at this time will be removed."