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“Iran’s actions last week illustrate the imperative of global missile defenses,” said Air Force Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, the strategic commander, and Army Gen. Bantz Craddock, the European commander. “We cannot wait to counter long-range, WMD-capable Iranian missiles. Deploying missile defenses in Europe would demonstrate our resolve to deter this threat, and protect our nation and allies by providing a critical capability to the war fighter.

“This funding supports the vital implementation of bilateral missile defense agreements reached by the United States to address the growing threats to Europe and North America from Southwest Asia,” they stated.

The generals stated they are “in complete agreement that Europe requires a layered defense enabled by a network of sensors and credible interceptor capability,” according to the July 14 letter.

The combatant commanders responsible for military operations in Europe and global missile defense operations noted that “our best military advice leads us to strongly endorse the president’s funding request for European missile defense sites.”

“These capabilities remain critical to defending America and our allies in Europe, and for deterring our adversaries today and in the future.”

The letter was sent to Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat and chairman of the Appropriations Committee, and four other senators.

Taiwan arms freeze

Despite the growing military imbalance across the Taiwan Strait, the State Department and White House National Security Council have frozen all U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific said Wednesday.

Adm. Timothy Keating, the Pacific commander, said after a speech to the Heritage Foundation that policy-makers have “reconciled” Taiwan’s aging forces with China’s missile and aircraft buildup opposite Taiwan. They have determined that “there is no pressing, compelling need for, at this moment, arms sales to Taiwan,” he said.

Other officials said the arms sale cutoff was the work of U.S. Ambassador to China Clarke Randt, who urged the arms cutoff to Taiwan to avoid upsetting China prior to the Olympics.

The arms freeze comes after years of pressuring by the Bush administration for Taiwan to pass a defense spending bill that would lead to purchases of submarines, missile defenses and aircraft. Taiwan also is seeking to buy new F-16s.

Asked if he supports the weapons freeze, Adm. Keating said, “it’s a tough question.”

“I’m hopeful, optimistic that the Taiwan defensive systems and the training of the Taiwan forces and the motivation of the Taiwan military is sufficient to convince China it is very much not in China’s interest to come across the Strait in a military fashion.”

Adm. Keating also revealed that the Pacific Command has a Joint Task Force of ships, aircraft, troops and other forces that is “committed” to responding to a conflict between China and Taiwan. “We do have a task force that does that on a day-to-day basis,” he said, noting that forces are added and removed from the task force that is dedicated to a Taiwan war.

On deterring China, Adm. Keating said: “I want them to know they’re going to lose” if China launches a war, Adm. Keating said. “So don’t bother.”

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