Will Obama Discuss North Korea In State Of The Union Address?
By Maya Shwayder | February 13, 2013 8:50 AM EST
North Korea effectively hijacked the world’s news cycle on Tuesday after Pyongyang said they conducted their third-ever test of a nuclear explosive -- leading to immediate speculation about what President Barack Obama will discuss in his State of the Union speech in the evening.
With much of the world now focused on what the less-democratic of the two Koreas is doing with its weapons, it’s only natural that Obama’s speechwriters may be scrambling to include language about nuclear proliferation in Tuesday night’s address.
Thomas Whalen, a political historian and presidential scholar at Boston University, and Julian Zelizer, Professor of History and Public Affairs at Princeton, both said this was a likely scenario.
“It’s on the national radar, it’s in the press today,” Zelizer said. “The last thing he [Obama] wants to do is open himself up to criticism and questions on why is he ignoring this.”
“I think it will just be a continuation of the administration's line of containment and lessening the prospect for nuclear proliferation,” said Whalen, responding to a question of how the speech might treat the issue.
“That seems to be the big issue, the problem [for Obama] is that rather than controlling events, events seem to be controlling [him].”
“The overall message will be ‘a wise use of military power and strength,” Zelizer added. “You’ll get some acknowledgement that this is unacceptable and we will take decisive action against it. He knows the Republicans will be talking about this, so I’m sure his speechwriters will want to anticipate this.”
“It’s an increasingly dangerous picture of the world,” Whalen continued. “I think this took everyone by surprise, and the fact that they [the North Koreans] are working on long-range capabilities means this is an issue that won’t be going away anytime soon.”
An extended mention or discussion of the problem probably won’t be warranted, however, as the speech is likely to focus mostly on domestic and economic issues. Any major foreign policy subjects that Obama mentions will probably involve the announcement that 34,000 US troops are coming home from Afghanistan.
Indeed, Michael O’Hanlon, a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute, said that if there was going to be any mention of nuclear arms in the speech, it was probably in place before the recent events in North Korea.
“I don’t think it changes much, “O’Hanlon said. “If the president were going to talk about nuclear arms, he would have to use language that says ‘the world’s still dangerous and we have to keep a safe, dependable arsenal.’ That would have been the case anyway, but the North Korea test gives him a hook to talk about it.”
Overall, as O’Hanlon wrote in an op-ed for Politico on Monday, foreign policy probably won’t factor into the speech very much at all.
“I’d be surprised if Iran or Syria were brought up,” O’Hanlon said. “If he were to talk about Syria or Mali, it would raise the question about why he’s not doing anything. He will try to get the conversation back to the economy, and say something like ‘These small and not-so-small crises may pull on our heart-strings, but the only way we can continue to be a global leader is if we focus on the problems at home.’”
The State of the Union will be broadcast at 9 p.m. Eastern time Tuesday.
To contact the editor, e-mail:
Most Popular Slideshows
- Flight MH17 Attack: Russians Claim 'Putin A Terrorist,' Memorial at Dutch Embassy Overflows [PHOTOS]
- Typhoon Rammasun Claims 18 Lives in China, Incurs $4.32B Losses (PHOTOS)
- Ellen DeGeneres Caught Cheating with Mutual Friend Before Portia de Rossi’s Rehab – Reports [PHOTOS]
- Typhoon Matmo Leaves 32k Customers w/o Electricity in Taiwan, Weakens After Landing in China
Join the Conversation
- Ideological Support Swells for Scottish Independence
- Malaysia Airlines MH17: Dutch Wants Putin's Daughter Maria Deported to Russia From Holland
- New Zealand and China Decide to Boost Defence Ties
- Gaza Crisis: 695 Dead & 4,500 Injured, UN Accuses Israel of War Crimes
- Scientists Warn MERS Virus Could be Spread Airborne
- Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Apps Leak Online, Five Fresh Features to Expect from the Android Smartphone
- Moto 360 Price Speculations, Key Features, Strategic Release Date, Design: A Watch That is More Than Just Time
- Windows Phone 8.1 Update Rollout: 20 Nokia Lumia Phones Eligible and 13 New Features to be Added
- HTC Google Nexus 8 Release Date Imminent with New Nexus 7 Deals, Two New Tablets Soon
- Three New Moto G Successors Spotted in FCC Document Dubbed Moto G2, Moto M and More --Reports
- iPad Air 2 Release Date Will Skip IGZO Panel; To Rollout with Super-Slim iPad Mini Air
- Upcoming iPad Mini 3 Could be 30% Thinner and Likely be Called iPad Mini Air; Apple Q3 Results Show 9% Decrease in iPad Sales