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"International Law is Not an Empty Promise"
September 24, 2009
12:50 PM EST
12:50 PM EST
During this morning's remarks to members of the UN Security Council, President Obama returned to an issue that was a major theme of his trip to the last G20 Summit in Europe: the spread and use of nuclear weapons:
As I said yesterday, this very institution was founded at the dawn of the atomic age, in part because man's capacity to kill had to be contained. And although we averted a nuclear nightmare during the Cold War, we now face proliferation of a scope and complexity that demands new strategies and new approaches. Just one nuclear weapon exploded in a city – be it New York or Moscow; Tokyo or Beijing; London or Paris – could kill hundreds of thousands of people. And it would badly destabilize our security, our economies, and our very way of life.
Once more, the United Nations has a pivotal role to play in preventing this crisis. The historic resolution we just adopted enshrines our shared commitment to the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. And it brings Security Council agreement on a broad framework for action to reduce nuclear dangers as we work toward that goal. It reflects the agenda I outlined in Prague, and builds on a consensus that all nations have the right to peaceful nuclear energy; that nations with nuclear weapons have the responsibility to move toward disarmament; and those without them have the responsibility to forsake them.
In closing, the President acknowledged the challenges ahead, citing the compelling words of President Ronald Reagan:
Now, we harbor no illusions about the difficulty of bringing about a world without nuclear weapons. We know there are plenty of cynics, and that there will be setbacks to prove their point. But there will also be days like today that push us forward – days that tell a different story. It is the story of a world that understands that no difference or division is worth destroying all that we have built and all that we love. It is a recognition that can bring people of different nationalities and ethnicities and ideologies together. In my own country, it has brought Democrats and Republican leaders together – leaders like George Shultz, Bill Perry, Henry Kissinger, and Sam Nunn, who are with us here today. And it was a Republican President, Ronald Reagan, who once articulated the goal we now seek in the starkest of terms. I quote:
"A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. And no matter how great the obstacles may seem, we must never stop our efforts to reduce the weapons of war. We must never stop until all – we must never stop at all until we see the day when nuclear arms have been banished from the face of the Earth."