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Obama and Medvedev talk nukes in Seoul

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

U.S. President Barack Obama, left, and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev stand together at the end of a bilateral meeting at the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, March 26, 2012.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

U.S. President Barack Obama, left, chats with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev during a bilateral meeting at the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, March, 26, 2012.

The leaders of the two super-powers and former Cold war foes met in South Korea to discuss the state of nuclear arms with other world leaders.

At the very beginning of the photo opportunity after the the bilateral meeting between them, the two leaders, seemingly unaware of a live microphone, had this hushed exchange about missile defense:

Obama: On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it's important for him to give me space.

Medvedev: Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you...

Obama: This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility

Medvedev: I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladmir.

White House spokesman Ben Rhodes responded to reporters' inquiries about the conversation saying:

Ben Rhodes: "The United States is committed to implementing our missile defense system, which we've repeatedly said is not aimed at Russia. However, given the longstanding difference between the US and Russia on this issue, it will take time and technical work before we can try to reach an agreement. Since 2012 is an election year in both countries, with an election and leadership transition in Russia and an election in the United States, it is clearly not a year in which we are going to achieve a breakthrough. Therefore, President Obama and President Medvedev agreed that it was best to instruct our technical experts to do the work of better understanding our respective positions, providing space for continued discussions on missile defense cooperation going forward."

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