Obama, Medvedev committed to new START treaty by year-end

by Takehiko Kajita

U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev expressed hope Sunday to strike a new deal for missile reductions between the two leading nuclear powers by the end of the year.

Obama and Medvedev signaled the stance after their bilateral meeting in Singapore, where they attended an annual summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

The United States and Russia have committed themselves to a post-START I pact, which expires on Dec. 5, as part of efforts to ''reset'' thorny relations.

''Our goal continues to be to complete the negotiations and to be able to sign a deal before the end of the year,'' Obama said.

''And I'm confident that if we work hard and with a sense of urgency about it that we should be able to get that done,'' he said.

Medvedev echoed the U.S. leader's view, saying, ''I hope that, as was agreed initially during our first meeting in London, was reaffirmed during later meetings, we will be able to finalize the text of the document by December.''

''This will be our joint contribution in strengthening global security, because this is precisely an issue where the position of the Russian Federation, the United States, defines the overall environment on the limit of strategic forces, the launches,'' he said.

Both Obama and Medvedev acknowledged that Washington and Moscow still have ''technical'' issues to be hammered out, without elaborating.

In April, Obama and Medvedev agreed to launch negotiations on the post-START I deal. They then fixed a framework in July for a new pact that would reduce their vast arsenals of Cold War nuclear warheads to as few as 1,500 each.

Concerning deployed nuclear warheads, the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty commits both sides to cutting their stockpiles to between 1,700 and 2,200.

START I, which resulted in significant reductions in the two nations' nuclear arsenals, limits the number of deployed warheads on both sides to 6,000 and the number of delivery systems to 1,600.

On Iran, Obama said time is running out for diplomacy to resolve a row over Iran's nuclear program, but Medvedev offered softer criticism of Tehran.

''Unfortunately, so far at least, Iran appears to have been unable to say yes to what everyone acknowledges is a creative and constructive approach,'' Obama said. ''We are running out of time with respect to that approach.''

Medvedev said ''other options'' can be used if discussions do not produce results, but did not spell out what they might be.

''Thanks to our joint efforts, this process did not stop, did not become a stumbling stone which is impossible to bypass. It is still underway,'' he said.

''But nonetheless, we're still not satisfied with the pace of advancement of the process,'' he said, adding, ''In case we fail, the other options remain on the table in order to move the process in a different direction.''

(Distributed by Kyodo News on Nov. 15, 2009)