The President's Most Important Meeting at APEC Is Not With An Asian Country Nor Does It Deal With the Economy

The most important meeting President Obama will have in Singapore at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum won't be with an Asian country, nor will it deal with economic issues.

The most important meeting the President will hold will be Sunday afternoon with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

Medvedev and President Obama will discuss three primary topics, all dealing with nuclear nonproliferation: renegotiations of the START Treaty, due to expire next month, and efforts to end the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea.

Senior Obama administration officials say meeting the December 5 deadline for a new START treaty is still a possibility.

The sticking points the two leaders and their teams will discuss tomorrow remain the same. One, for instance, is how to count nuclear weapons reductions given the asymmetrical nature of the US and Russian forces. Russian nuclear warheads are more land based; US warheads are more sea-based. Russians favor more warheads on fewer launchers; the US favors fewer warheads on more launchers.

Medvedev and Obama will also discuss potential sanctions on Iran, with the timing of such sanctions one anticipated topic of conversation.

The Russian newspaper Kommersant is reporting that sources in Medvedev's government say he is "100 percent ready" to support further sanctions against Iran if it does not agree to International Atomic Energy Agency proposals to remove its enriched uranium.

It is a delicate dance, pressuring Iran while not being seen as doing so too heavy-handedly. Medvedev's public comments have been more circumspect; he told Der Spiegel that "We wouldn't want this to end with international sanctions because sanctions, as a rule, take us in a very complex and dangerous direction. But if there is no movement forward, nobody is ruling out such a scenario."

Iran has balked at sending its low-enriched uranium to Russia to be further enriched and returned to Iran for use in the Tehran medical research reactor, with Iranian leaders fearing that once the uranium is out of the country, it will never come back. The Obama administration has sent back-channel messages proposing that Iran send its stockpile to other nations for the short term, including Turkey and Kazakhstan, for temporary safekeeping.

All of this negotiation is going on with initial reports from the inspections of the Qom facility indicating the facility is large enough to manufacture weapons-grade uranium that could be used to make nuclear warheads.

The third subject of the Obama-Medvedev meeting, North Korea, is more of an update, with President Obama expected to give details to Medvedev about the pending visit of former US Ambassador to South Korea Stephen Bosworth to Pyongyang to hold "bilateral talks" with North Korean officials.


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