Obama Calls Reduction Of Nuclear Arms One Of His Highest Priorities

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
President Obama on Tuesday reiterated his message that the United States must be a leader in the worldwide elimination of nuclear weapons in order to meet the security challenges of the future.

"It is absolutely imperative that America takes leadership, working with not just our Russian counterparts but countries all around the world, to reduce and ultimately eliminate the dangers that are posed by nuclear weapons," Mr. Obama said. "We are going to be pushing this as one of our highest priorities, to take specific steps, measurable steps, verifiable steps, to make progress on this issue, even as we keep a long-term perspective and a long-term vision about what can be achieved."

He said the goal is particularly important because countries like North Korea and Iran are developing nuclear weapons capacity, and because of al Qaeda's presence in nuclear-armed Pakistan.

The president spoke after meeting Tuesday with four bipartisan national security leaders: former secretaries of state George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, former Defense Secretary William Perry and former Senator Sam Nunn. Mr. Obama said the four men have inspired his administration's policies, particularly its goal to make the United States a leader in an effort to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

"I don't think anybody would accuse these four gentlemen of being dreamers," he said. "They're hard-headed, tough defenders of American interests and American security."

The president launched his effort to eliminate nuclear weapons in Prague last month. Today, he said the United States can take specific actions like revitalizing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and working with the Russians to reduce the two country's dependence on nuclear weapons. He also suggested moving forward on a comprehensive test ban treaty.

"It's going to require more work, but I think that we can get something accomplished there, and we can lock down loose nuclear weapons that could fall into the hands of terrorists," he said.