- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 29, 2001

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz says the Pentagon sees North Korea and Iraq as the leading military threats to the United States in the near future.
"Wars might happen tomorrow in Korea and Iraq," Mr. Wolfowitz said in a pretaped interview on CNN's "Evans, Novak, Hunt & Shields" that aired yesterday.
But he made it clear the Department of Defense views North Korea as the more serious threat, given the United States' defeat of Iraq in the 1991 Persian Gulf war.
"We face enormous conventional threats from North Korea," the department's second-in-command said, before being interrupted by one of the show's hosts.
Mr. Wolfowitz also identified the Middle East as a possible flash-point in the near-term. "Iraq is still a potent force. If the United States weren't there, Saddam Hussein could be in Riyadh [Saudi Arabia] tomorrow," he said.
"But we know what Iraq can do. We fought that war. We know their weaknesses. We know our strengths," Mr. Wolfowitz said.
In fact, he said, the United States "overestimated what we needed against Saddam Hussein" in the Gulf war, with one major exception.
That exception, said Mr. Wolfowitz, was this country's inability to "shoot down those primitive Scud missiles" launched by Iraq that "killed 24 Americans [in a military barrack] in Dhahran" and "that almost dragged Israel into the war."
"The one place where [Saddam] had more capability than we ever imagined was his ability to keep launching ballistic missiles," the deputy defense secretary said.
More than a decade after Operation Desert Storm, Mr. Wolfowitz said, the United States has "finally developed" the methodology to defend against Scud missiles."
"We're now developing means to intercept the faster missiles that would come in at intercontinental ranges," he said.
The Bush administration is seeking congressional approval of a limited national missile defense system to counter possible missile attacks from "rogue states." Many Democrats oppose the plan, fearing it would spark an arms race.
However, some leading Democrats have said they may withdraw their opposition because of an agreement reached last week between President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two men agreed to enter negotiations that could remove a major international stumbling block to development of a multilayered missile defense program. If the negotiations are successful, it would free the United States and Russia from constraints imposed under the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty they signed in 1972.
The ABM Treaty outlaws the United States and the now defunct Soviet Union from building missile defense systems. But Russia now says it would let the United States employ a missile shield if the United States would reduce its offensive nuclear weapons stockpiles.
In the CNN interview, Mr. Wolfowitz was asked about claims made by some critics that the missile defense system Mr. Bush envisions might wind up costing $100 billion.
"The problem is we're in a development phase. … Until we know what works and what doesn't work, I can't give you cost estimates," Mr. Wolfowitz said.
Nevertheless, he said: "These notions that the missile defense is going to cost hundreds of billions of dollars are figments of people's imagination."
Mr. Wolfowitz said he recognizes "it's going to be a battle" to get Congress to approve the $18.4 billion in added Pentagon spending the White House is seeking next year. The Pentagon brass wanted an additional $30 billion.
He listed readiness training, dealing with infrastructure problems, boosting military pay and investing in missile defense as top spending priorities for the Pentagon.
"As long as we were constrained by the ABM Treaty, we were limited from doing those things which would allow us to do missile defense most efficiently," Mr. Wolfowitz said.

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