Obama Calls For Nuclear Arms Reduction Efforts Sunday morning President Obama delivered an outdoor speech to more than 20,000 people in a city square in Prague. The topic of the speech was the threat posed by the spread of nuclear weapons. He called the news out of North Korea a reminder of why the threat needs to be addressed.
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Obama Calls For Nuclear Arms Reduction Efforts

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Obama Calls For Nuclear Arms Reduction Efforts

Obama Calls For Nuclear Arms Reduction Efforts

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

President Obama is condemning the missile launch by North Korea. The president is in the Czech Republic meeting with European Union leaders in Prague. This morning he delivered an outdoor speech to more than 20,000 people in a city square in Prague. The topic of the speech was the threat posed by the spread of nuclear weapons, and he called the news out of North Korea a reminder of why the threat needs to be addressed.

President BARACK OBAMA: North Korea broke the rules, once again, by testing a rocket that could be used for long-range missiles. This provocation underscores the need for action, not just this afternoon at the U.N. Security Council, but in our determination to prevent the spread of these weapons.

WERTHEIMER: NPR's Don Gonyea is traveling with the president and he joins us now from Prague. Good morning, Don.

DON GONYEA: Good morning.

WERTHEIMER: Now, the president is in the middle of a weeklong visit to Europe when this event happens, what else is the White House saying about the missile launch?

GONYEA: The president has made a couple of just brief statements about it in addition to that speech that we just heard a clip from. Basically he is calling it a provocative move on the part of North Korea. Now, he has in the past promoted dialogue and what he has called constructive engagement with North Korea. He has in the past spoken positively of the so-called six-nation talks that have been an attempt to prevent North Korea from moving forward with its nuclear ambitions and to prevent this sort of thing.

Today's speech in Prague was greeted with a very, very, very positive response from this huge crowd. They cheered when he said the U.N. needs to take strong steps and that nations need to be united. Give a listen to the crowd here.

(Soundbite of applause)

Pres. OBAMA: Now is the time for a strong international response and North Korea must know that the path to security and respect will never come through threats and illegal weapons. All nations must come together to build a stronger global regime.

WERTHEIMER: Don, who is the president talking to today? He's there for European Union meetings. Is North Korea now the big topic of conversation?

GONYEA: He's meeting with an assortment of European Union leaders and leaders of the European Commission. And a series of bilateral meetings and group sessions were already scheduled. It's not clear that this will come up in those group sessions, but in one-on-one meetings he is having with various leaders, absolutely.

This is now an item on the table and every time they stand before a huge bank of TV cameras and microphones, these questions are shouted. So it has become the discussion around the summit here at least. And he has downtime here and there, and he is using that time to consult with his defense secretary and his national security advisor and to talk to leaders of other countries who are not here at these European Union meetings.

WERTHEIMER: Don, could we go back to the president's big speech in Prague this morning? His topic was nuclear nonproliferation, which, of course, got a lot more timely. What else is he proposing?

GONYEA: Yeah, he said the irony is that at no time since the Cold War has there been less of a threat of nuclear war. But at the same time, the threat of a nuclear attack is higher than ever. He's talking about if, say, a terrorist group could get their hands on a nuclear weapon. He promoted talks the U.S. is going to have with Russia and agreed to this week to reduce nuclear warheads.

He wants a halt to nuclear testing. It's funny though, in this speech, again, 20,000 people there, it sounded a lot like a campaign rally. He said that, you know, some argue that this spread can't be stopped, it can't be checked, that what he's calling for is naive. But then he said - and here's the campaign stop - he said it can be done, and he literally used the phrase, yes we can.

WERTHEIMER: NPR's Don Gonyea reporting from Prague. Don, thanks.

GONYEA: It's my pleasure.

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