Reports late Monday indicate North Korea conducted its third nuclear test, less than 24 hours before President Obama’s State of the Union address, which the New York Times reported Sunday will focus on a renewed administration push for deep cuts to the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
The Times reported “President Obama will use his State of the Union speech on Tuesday to reinvigorate one of his signature national security objectives — drastically reducing nuclear arsenals around the world — after securing agreement in recent months with the United States military that the American nuclear force can be cut in size by roughly a third.”
The timing is potentially challenging for Obama, who will be bucking decades of tradition in his push for unilateral cuts. The size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal has typically been determined by Congress, and in treaties with the Soviet Union, and later Russia.
The president has stated repeatedly his goal to work toward a world without nuclear weapons.
Another proponent of “nuclear zero,” Obama’s nominee for secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel, faces a vote before the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday afternoon. Hagel insisted in his hearing that he opposed unilateral cuts to the U.S. arsenal, despite co-authoring a report that urged such action if bilateral cuts were not possible.
It is unclear whether Obama will press forward with his call for a new round of nuclear cuts in light of the North Korean nuclear test.