- The Washington Times - Monday, July 16, 2001

The Senate's top Republican yesterday hailed the Pentagon's successful missile-defense test and predicted President Bush will win his political battle to implement a defense against ballistic missile attacks on the United States and its allies.
"They hit a bullet with a bullet, and it does work. We can develop that capability," Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott said on "Fox News Sunday" the morning after a missile interceptor launched from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands destroyed a mock warhead in space.
But while Republicans and even some Democrats lauded the U.S. test launch, Russia condemned it as an exercise that jeopardizes all previous nuclear disarmament agreements.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said the test created a situation "which threatens all international treaties in the sphere of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation which are based on the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty."
Missile-defense systems are banned under the ABM Treaty. The United States has vowed to abrogate that treaty unless Russia agrees to amend it. But Moscow and other ABM Treaty proponents view the pact as the cornerstone of global strategic stability.
Proponents of national missile-defense feel the test results boost Mr. Bush's hopes for building such a system by 2004, as a shield against attack by so-called "rogue" nations such as Iran, Iraq and North Korea.
Two out of three prior flight tests failed. The most recent failure occurred a year ago, prompting President Clinton to let his successor decide whether to proceed with the proposed system.
Asked yesterday what will happen in the Senate to Mr. Bush's plan to develop a multilayered defense shield, Mr. Lott said: "He's going to do it. We're going to do it we're going to put this right at the top of the agenda, not allowed to be pushed aside by Democrats, who really don't want to put the money into defense that's needed for the future security of our children."
But on talk shows yesterday some leading Senate Democrats congratulated the Bush administration on the successful test of its anti-ballistic missile defense, which occurred over the Pacific Ocean late Saturday night.
"The test last night was good news and very encouraging news," said Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, on CNN's "Late Edition."
Mr. Lieberman, the unsuccessful Democratic nominee for vice president in 2000, congratulated Air Force Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish, head of the Pentagon's Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, plus "all the folks" in that unit and at the Pentagon, for a "very significant step forward."
Unlike many Democrats, Mr. Lieberman has supported plans to develop a system to defend against what he calls a "limited missile attack." "There is a missile threat, and we need to be developing a defense to it," he said on CNN.
Yesterday on "Fox News Sunday," Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, who has been a critic of the missile-defense strategy, offered more restrained congratulations.
"I congratulate the military on the successful test, but it's not a real-world test yet. We have a long way to go, and we should continue to pursue it," said Mr. Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
He described the test results as a "first step, a positive step." He also said they indicate the "60 billion [dollars] that I voted for over the last 20 years for missile-defense research is starting to pay off."
But Mr. Biden argued the test "doesn't in any way simulate a genuine kind of threat that we would face," and he said he finds some of the details of the Bush program incomprehensible.
The Delaware Democrat also said he's puzzled by Mr. Bush's plans for a new test range in Alaska. Mr. Biden said he questions the need for such a facility and wonders if testing is designed to give the administration "an excuse to break out of the ABM Treaty."
"If you do real-world testing, there's no reasonable prospect we have to break out of the ABM Treaty for up to 10 years," Mr. Biden told Fox News.
Asked if he would give the president the full $8 billion he's requested for the missile-defense program this year, Mr. Biden said: "It depends on what he's going to use it for. The answer is maybe." That amount would represent 3 percent of the defense budget in fiscal 2002
Opponents of Mr. Bush's plan to deploy a multilayered shield, including missiles launched from ships and lasers fired from modified Boeing 747 aircraft, believe it would spark nuclear proliferation.
"It has to be technologically feasible, and it has to be something that brings down, doesn't increase, the number of more offensive weapons around the world," said Mr. Biden.
In Seoul yesterday, about 1,000 protesters scuffled with riot police at a U.S. bombing range. They demanded that South Korea not participate in the planned system and that U.S. forces shut down the bombing range at Maehyangri, about 50 miles southwest of Seoul.
The environmental, anti-nuclear group Greenpeace, whose protests delayed the launch of the missile defense test for several minutes, said yesterday: "The 'star wars' program threatens to start a new nuclear arms race." The group charged that Mr. Bush is "risking the lives of millions of people around the world" with his plan.
* This article is based in part on wire service reports.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide