Obama vows to reduce number, role of nuclear weapons

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama pledged to reduce both the number and the role of nuclear weapons as he recommitted himself to the abolition of the ultra-destructive arms.

Obama was marking the 40th anniversary of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which he said remained the cornerstone of international efforts to stop the spread of the weapons.

"Our forthcoming Nuclear Posture Review will move beyond outdated Cold War thinking and reduce the number and role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, even as we maintain a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent," Obama said in a statement.

A senior US official earlier this week said that the Obama administration planned "dramatic reductions" in the country's nuclear arsenal as part of the review, due to be completed by late March.

Obama laid out a vision for a nuclear-free world in a major speech last year in Prague, while acknowledging he may never see the goal achieved.

"The United States reaffirms our resolve to strengthen the nonproliferation regime to meet the challenges of the 21st century as we pursue our ultimate vision of a world without nuclear weapons," he said in the statement.

Obama has called a major summit in Washington in April on nuclear security. His administration is also involved in talks with Russia on a new treaty, which Obama said Friday would "significantly reduce our nuclear arsenals."

The United States -- the only nation to have used atomic weapons in combat -- maintains a vast nuclear arsenal including around 2,200 operational warheads and an additional 2,500 warheads that can be activated if necessary.

Obama called the NPT the "cornerstone of the world's efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons."

His administration is involved in slow-moving diplomacy with both Iran and North Korea in attempts to prevent them from developing nuclear weapons.

Iran, which is a signatory to the NPT, contends its contested nuclear program is for peaceful means.

North Korea pulled out of the treaty in 2003 in a standoff with the United States and has since tested two nuclear bombs.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a separate statement to mark the anniversary of the treaty and point to Iran and North Korea's failure to abide by it.

She said the treaty's strength lay in its "legally binding structure" and cited Iran and North Korea for continuing "to defy the international community and their own obligations," pledging the United States would work to convince the two nations "to change their course."