Thursday, May 29, 2008

BIDEN Issues Statement Following McCain Speech on Nuclear Security

Washington, DC Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-DE) issued the following statement today following Senator McCain’s speech on nuclear security:

“Senator McCain’s speech today contains many ideas that suggest a welcome departure from the Bush Administration’s hostility to arms control. His proposals to significantly reduce our deployed nuclear arsenal, to pursue a new arms control agreement with Russia and maintain the kinds of verification measures that have served us well in the START Treaty, to reconsider the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, to cancel the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, and to negotiate a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty are all important components of a sensible nuclear strategy. His emphasis on multilateral cooperation is an important contrast to the unilateral approach often taken by President Bush.

“But the speech contains critical gaps: it tells us nothing about how he would deal with the threats posed by the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran. He says that ‘[m]any believe all we need to do to end the nuclear programs of hostile governments is have our president talk with leaders in Pyongyang and Tehran, as if we haven’t tried talking to these governments repeatedly over the past two decades. Others think military action alone can achieve our goals, as if military actions were not fraught with their own terrible risks.’

“In North Korea, the President’s tough minded negotiations – after years of policy stalemate – are yielding results. Does his statement imply that the President is wrong to engage in these talks? If Senator McCain thinks it is useless to negotiate with Pyongyang, then that would be a serious setback to American security. But if he agrees that talks can be productive, then his position on Iran makes no sense. Last year, President Bush sent a personal letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, one of the world’s worst tyrants, promising normalized relations in response to certain actions by North Korea. How can we engage in direct communication with him but refuse to talk to the government in Tehran?

“There are three options in Iran – talk, maintain the status quo, or go to war. Does Senator McCain’s statement mean that he has ruled out talking to Iran? If so, we're stuck with the ineffectual Bush policy that has allowed Iran to get closer to the bomb, or military strikes that could quickly spiral out of control.

“Finally, Senator McCain’s constructive commitment to cooperate with Russia on nuclear non-proliferation will surely be hampered by his proposal to eject Russia from the G-8.”

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