Obama vows to press for further nuclear weapons reductions

President Obama vowed during his State of the Union to continue working to reduce the nation's nuclear arsenal, telling lawmakers that America must show leadership in order to isolate nuclear rogue states like North Korea and Iran.

“We will engage Russia to seek further reductions in our nuclear arsenals,” he said, “and continue leading the global effort to secure nuclear materials that could fall into the wrong hands – because our ability to influence others depends on our willingness to lead.”

He juxtaposed that call with a promise to continue to isolate Iran and North Korea, which tested a nuclear weapon on the eve of the president's address.

“America will continue to lead the effort to prevent the spread of the world’s most dangerous weapons,” Obama said. “The regime in North Korea must know that they will only achieve security and prosperity by meeting their international obligations. Provocations of the sort we saw last night will only isolate them further, as we stand by our allies, strengthen our own missile defense, and lead the world in taking firm action in response to these threats.”

“Likewise, the leaders of Iran must recognize that now is the time for a diplomatic solution, because a coalition stands united in demanding that they meet their obligations, and we will do what is necessary to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon.”

Obama is expected to announce more specifics as the fourth anniversary of his April 2009 Prague speech approaches. Items on advocates' wish lists include negotiating a follow-on treaty with Russia to cover tactical and non-deployed weapons, getting the Senate to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and negotiating a new Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty at the United Nations.

The most likely avenue for progress, however, rests in bilateral talks between the United States and Russia to go below the target of 1,500 nuclear warheads agreed to in the New START Treaty. Any such cuts will be a tough sell for Republicans in Congress, however.

Hawkish Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio), the chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces, said Tuesday it was “no coincidence” the test took place ahead of a speech in which Obama was expected to mention nuclear disarmament.

“It is even more disturbing to learn that while North Korea is expanding its weapons programs, the president is contemplating unilateral disarmament,” Turner said. “This is the wrong time to say to the North Koreans: ‘We’ll lay down our weapons, while you raise yours.’ ”