Barack Obama greets  Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the summit.

Barack Obama greets Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the summit. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

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Obama addresses open mic incident

President says asking for flexibility from the Russians wasn't 'hiding the ball.'

Following his hot mic incident with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, President Obama clarified his request for "space," saying the complicated issue of arms control needs to be handled carefully and that he was not trying to hide anything or play politics.

“This is not a matter of hiding the ball,” Obama said, according to the White House pool report. “I'm on record. I made a speech about it to a whole bunch of Korean university students yesterday. I want to see us over time gradually, systematically reduce reliance on nuclear weapons.”

The New Start treaty, which the U.S. and Russia ratified last year, took a painstaking two years to hammer out, the president told reporters. Given the political climate in both countries, he said, they needed more time to tackle this issue.

“We're going to spend the next nine, 10 months trying to work through some of the technical aspects of how we get past what is a major point of friction,” Obama said. “One of the primary points of this whole missile defense issue.”

Obama spoke after a nuclear clean-up agreement between U.S., Russia and Kazakhstan was announced. But before he got into the details, the president injected a little humor.

“First of all, are all the mics on?” he said.