The Yomiuri Shimbun (Feb. 15, 2013)
Obama to face global challenges over the next 4 years
U.S. President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize by declaring it was time to seek "a world without nuclear weapons."
However, the president has been hit by a harsh reality from North Korea that is contradictory to this ideal.
Obama laid out Tuesday his priorities for the year ahead in his first State of the Union address for his second term in office.
The president issued a warning to North Korea, which went ahead with a nuclear test before the speech, making it clear that the United States will take "firm action" against Pyongyang.
Obama said "provocations" like the test "will only isolate [North Korea] further." The United States will "lead the world in taking firm action in response to these threats," he added.
Obama also pledged his country will work to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, while engaging Russia to seek further reductions in nuclear warheads.
The United States should eliminate nuclear threats by putting pressure on North Korea through sanctions, while at the same time working closely with other countries concerned through various diplomatic channels. We hope that the president will take concrete action.
U.S. determined to take lead
In addition to nuclear issues, Obama emphasized that the United States will take steps against cyberterrorism, champion freedom and democracy, and provide support to Middle Eastern and African countries in their fight against extremists.
The speech conveyed Obama's strong determination that the United States should play the leading role in maintaining global security as the world's sole superpower, by working closely with other countries at a time when the country plans to withdraw more troops from Afghanistan.
The question is how he will achieve results.
Tuesday's speech did not discuss what a strategy placing importance on Asia actually means or how the United States should regard China. These issues, however, are also among key issues in the diplomatic and security fields for Obama's second term.
The speech also focused on fiscal reconstruction and reviving the U.S. economy as priority challenges for domestic affairs.
Early last month, the United States avoided the fiscal cliff--the expiration of large-scale tax cuts and the automatic imposition of mandatory spending cuts--after the president and Congress reached a deal.
However, the U.S. fiscal administration remains on a tightrope as the two sides have been divided over implementation of drastic fiscal reconstruction measures. There are just weeks left until March 1, the date to which the automatic spending cuts were delayed under the deal.
Looming clash with Republicans
In the speech, Obama said it is important to "reignite the true engine of America's economic growth--a rising, thriving middle class." He showed his focus on middle-income earners and called for Republicans to make major concessions to achieve fiscal reconstruction mainly through overhauling the medical insurance and social security systems, which face ballooning costs.
As Obama took a clearly confrontational approach to Republicans, the two sides are expected to go through a still fiercer tug-of-war.
However, mandatory spending cuts would have a negative impact on the U.S. economy, which is just getting onto a recovery path. Major cuts in defense expenditures also might jeopardize U.S. security systems in Asia and other parts of the world.
Obama also expressed his determination to complete negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade framework as part of efforts to expand employment in his country. Japan should accelerate efforts to take part in it.
With piles of issues at home and abroad, Obama's leadership will be called into question. He will surely face a series of challenges.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 14, 2013)