John McCain and Barack Obama -- presidential rivals last year -- agreed today on the need for progress to a world free of nuclear weapons.
McCain, the veteran Republican senator from Arizona, spoke on the Senate floor to mark the unveiling of a statue in the Capitol Rotunda of the late President Ronald Reagan, who also dreamed of a nuke-free world.
"This is a distant and difficult goal," McCain said. "And we must proceed toward it prudently and pragmatically, and with a focused concern for our security and the security of allies who depend on us. But the Cold War ended almost twenty years ago, and the time has come to take further measures to reduce dramatically the number of nuclear weapons in the world's arsenals. In so doing, the United States can – and indeed, must – show the kind of leadership the world expects from us, in the tradition of American presidents who worked to reduce the nuclear threat to mankind."
McCain called for a reduction in the US nuclear arsenal, while continuing "to deploy a safe and reliable nuclear deterrent, robust missile defenses, and superior conventional forces capable of defending the United States and our allies."
He also called for a more robust stance against Iran and North Korea, saying "the US must lead the world not only in reducing the size of existing nuclear arsenals, but also in reversing the course of nuclear proliferation. This requires a tough, and tough-minded, approach to both Iran and North Korea, both of whom have gotten away with too much for far too long."
Obama, who called for eventually ridding the world of nuclear weapons in a major speech in Prague in April, issued a statement welcoming McCain's speech.
"In my speech in Prague, I outlined my agenda for keeping the American people safe from the dangers posed by nuclear weapons, and I am grateful to John McCain for his leadership on these critical issues," he said in a statement. "I have outlined an ambitious strategy for promoting arms control and preventing nuclear terrorism and proliferation, which is already bearing fruit. I look forward to working with Senator McCain and the entire Congress to ensure that we accomplish these goals together for the American people and the security of the entire planet."
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.