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Senior Republicans on Tuesday used North Korea’s latest nuclear test to attack President Barack Obama’s foreign policies and his reported plans to reduce the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
“The Obama administration must replace its failed North Korea policy with one that is energetic, creative and focused on crippling the Kim regime’s military capabilities through stringent sanctions that tackle its illicit activities and cuts off its flow of hard currency,” California’s Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a written statement, referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. “Otherwise, the grave North Korean threat to the region and the United States will only grow.”
After North Korea’s first nuclear test in October 2006, Democratic lawmakers urged President George W. Bush to open direct talks with Pyongyang. In May 2009, Republicans used North Korea’s second test as ammunition for their drive to increase funding and support for a worldwide anti-missile defense system.
This time, Republican criticism of the president has been particularly sharp and partisan. California Republican Howard “Buck” McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, cited Pyongyang’s nuclear test as a reason to dissuade Obama from any new plan to make further cuts in the U.S. nuclear arsenal, which some media reports had suggested could come in his State of the Union speech Tuesday night.
“On the same day the president of the United States plans to announce further reduction in U.S. nuclear weapons, we see another hostile regime unimpressed by his example,” McKeon said in a statement.
Obama did not announce any specific target in his speech Tuesday night, but he did make it clear that reductions in the size of the arsenal would be considered.
“We will engage Russia to seek further reductions in our nuclear arsenals, 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,” Obama said, adding that the United States also needed to strengthen its missile defense.
Obama on Tuesday issued a statement calling the test “highly provocative.”
In his speech, he added, “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.”
The nuclear test, North Korea’s third, occurred late Monday night. Seismic monitoring agencies recorded a magnitude between 4.9 and 5.2, which is bigger than the seismic shocks produced by North Korea’s previous blast in 2006 and 2009.