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During President Barack Obama's recent address to the United Nations General Assembly, he emphasized the need and the opportunity for all nations to work together to forge "a global response to global challenges."
But before such a concerted response can be effectively forged, he said, there must be full recognition that while all nations have rights, all nations have responsibilities as well.
Two countries that have refused to live up to their responsibilities in the area of nuclear non-proliferation are Iran and North Korea. Iran continues its enrichment activities in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions, and North Korea has announced it conducted two nuclear tests.
In his U.N. address, President Obama reiterated his desire to engage diplomatically with both Iran and North Korea, but said the two nations cannot be permitted to disregard their international obligations with impunity:
"If the governments of Iran and North Korea choose to ignore international standards; if they put the pursuit of nuclear weapons ahead of regional stability and the security and opportunity of their own people; if they are oblivious to the dangers of escalating nuclear arms races in both East Asia and the Middle East – then they must be held accountable. The world must stand together to demonstrate that international law is not an empty promise and that treaties will be enforced. We must insist that the future not belong to fear."
This is not about singling out individual nations, said President Obama. "It is about standing up for the rights of all nations that do live up to their responsibilities. A world in which IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] inspections are avoided and the United Nations' demands are ignored will leave all people less safe, and all nations less secure. In their actions to date, the governments of North Korea and Iran," said President Obama, "threaten to take us down this dangerous slope."