The Washington Times - March 12, 2008, 08:32AM
Vice President Dick Cheney President Ronald Reagan SEE RELATED:

To protect ourselves, we have to understand the world as it is — and to face our challenges squarely. In 1972, nine countries had ballistic missiles. Today, it is at least 27 — and that includes hostile regimes that oppress their own people, seek to intimidate and dominate their neighbors, and actively support terrorist groups.\ \ \ On the Korean peninsula, we all want to see the six-party talks conclude in the complete, verifiable dismantling of Kim Jong Il’s nuclear weapons. Yet the fact remains that North Korea today is developing an intercontinental ballistic missile with the potential of striking the American mainland with a nuclear warhead. The North Koreans also today possess a large force of missiles that threaten America’s closest allies in Asia and our forces deployed in the region.\ \ \ North Korea is one of the world’s most active proliferators of ballistic missile technology. Pyongyang is a missile supplier to rogue regimes that have provided arms to terrorist groups, whose increasing military capabilities, combined with their aggressive intentions, pose a growing danger to the peace of the world.\ \ \ Iran is engaged in a long-running effort to build up its missile forces and capabilities. This includes North Korean assistance on medium-range ballistic missiles. Existing Iranian missile and rocket capabilities already threaten U.S. forces in the Middle East, as well as Israel and our Arab partners. Tehran continues to develop technologies that could lead to its building an ICBM capable of striking the United States — perhaps as soon as late — in the next decade.\ \ \ Given all we know about the Iranian regime’s hatred of America, its vow to destroy Israel, and its ongoing efforts to develop the technology that could be used for a nuclear weapon, that is a danger every one of us must take seriously.\ \ \ Syria is receiving assistance from North Korea in building up its missile forces. And Iran has used Syria for years as a transit point to build up the military capabilities of the Lebanese terrorist group, Hezbollah. As we saw in the summer of 2006, Hezbollah now possesses a sizeable rocket force — one that many analysts believe could be capable of targeting some of Israel’s major cities. \ \ \ And, of course, as we have all seen in recent weeks, Tehran may increasingly be turning its sights to inflaming the situation in the Gaza Strip, now controlled by the terrorist group, Hamas. In Gaza, crude, home-made weapons meant to terrorize Israeli civilians are being augmented by more advanced, longer-range weapons that are clearly smuggled in from outside.\ \ \ It’s plain to see that the world around us gives ample reason to continue working on missile defense. In the ongoing political campaign, there’s been discussion recently about 3 a.m. phone calls. (Laughter.) We all hope that a commander in chief never has to pick up the line and be told that a ballistic missile is heading toward the United States. In such an instance, catastrophe would be minutes away. And the best tool we can leave to a future commander in chief is a weapon of defense to blow that missile out of the sky. (Applause.)\ \ \ When President Bush and I took office, our country had no capability to defend the American people against long-range ballistic missiles — and, we believed, not enough money was going into R&D and testing of potential defenses. And so, after retiring the ABM Treaty, the President acted to make missile defense operational. Instead of waiting for the perfect shield, he decided to begin deploying capabilities as soon as possible, and then add to it in the future as technology progresses.\ \ \ By the end of 2004, we had an initial capability in place to defend against limited missile attacks by rogue states, or an accidental launch. And missile defense technology continues to advance. The Patriot system that we all remember from the Gulf War is still in use, but is now much improved, and our sea-based Aegis missile defense system continues to perform very well in its intercept test program. From tests we’ve conducted in the Pacific, we now believe we have a credible measure of protection against long-range threats from Northeast Asia. \ \ \ The next step is to deploy long-range missile defense in Europe, to protect our friends and allies.
— Jon Ward, White House correspondent, The Washington Times