- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 11, 2004

Deployment of the first U.S. national missile defense has produced little domestic or international opposition. In fact, there is growing interest among other nations in taking part in buying or cooperating in U.S. efforts to knock down enemy missiles and warheads.

Russia, with thousands of strategic nuclear missiles and its own limited missile defense, has said that the U.S. system does not threaten Moscow’s security. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said in August that the interceptors in Alaska “pose no threat to Russia’s security.” He also said that “in theory Russia has never ruled out cooperation with the USA” in missile defenses.

China, on the other hand, has reacted modestly. “Our missile defenses aren’t really a threat to China. And I think they know that,” said an official who is involved in missile defense at the Pentagon. “It’s not been a thunderous response or ruptured relations.”

However, China has been more vocal in opposing U.S. short-range missile defenses, such as the Patriot PAC-3 or Aegis missile defense, that could be sold or used cooperatively in defending Taiwan, the official said.

China’s official People’s Daily, the newspaper of the ruling Communist Party, said U.S. missile defenses can contribute to world peace by stopping the accidental launch of a nuclear missile. “However, the [national missile defense], no matter how perfect it becomes, could not truly stop a nuclear war or a nuclear strike on the U.S. continent,” the newspaper stated.

Japan is likely to become one of the major U.S. partners in overseas missile defense. Tokyo has agreed to buy the Navy’s new Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) interceptor, which can be deployed on Japan’s Aegis ships.

Japan also has expressed an interest in buying the Air Force’s new Airborne Laser, the Boeing 747 with a laser gun outfitted in the nose that can shoot down short-range missiles. For the Japanese, the major missile threat comes from North Korea, which has 620-mile-range Nodong missiles that can hit Japan.

European allies Britain, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania and Hungary also are interested in cooperative arrangements with the United States on missile defense. Poland already has designated the Powidz Air Base in the western part of the country as a potential interceptor base for U.S. missiles. Construction of a base in Europe could begin as early as 2006, defense officials said.

Australia has said it plans to develop missile defenses with the United States. Israel has deployed Arrow missile defenses that were developed jointly with the United States. India is considering the purchase of Patriot anti-missile systems to counter the threat from Pakistan’s missiles.

Taiwan, which already has a less-capable version of the Patriot, is planning purchases of the PAC-3, perhaps as early as next year. Taiwan needs the defenses to counter the growing Chinese missile threat to the island. “The foremost threat from the Chinese communists is their some 600 ballistic missiles,” said Adm. Chen Pang-chih, head of Taiwan’s political warfare bureau.

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