- The Washington Times - Friday, October 26, 2001

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday the Pentagon is curbing missile-defense tests to avoid possible violations of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

U.S. officials, meanwhile, said the Bush administration will withdraw from the Cold War-era treaty as early as December if talks with the Russians on the pact fail to permit development of U.S. defenses against long-range missiles.

"We are determined to go ahead with missile defense," said one administration official.

The ABM Treaty bans deployment of any missile- defense system that can protect the entire territory of either Russia or the United States. Russia has a limited strategic defense deployed around Moscow. The United States has no strategic defenses.

Asked if the United States would withdraw from the treaty, Mr. Rumsfeld said: "What we have said is that the treaty needs to be set aside, and that the United States needs to go forward with a test program so that at some point in the period ahead we'll have determined what's the best way to deploy ballistic-missile defenses."

The Bush administration has diverged sharply from the Clinton administration, which opposed a national missile- defense system and viewed the ABM Treaty as the cornerstone of Washington's strategic relations with Moscow.

The defense secretary announced to reporters at the Pentagon that the United States has "voluntarily restrained our ballistic missile-defense test program."

Mr. Rumsfeld said "some lawyers" might have argued that a missile test planned for Wednesday and next month would have violated the treaty.

"As we all know, treaties and most legal documents have vagueness to them," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "We've said we won't violate it; therefore, we do not want to be in a position of having a small minority of people suggesting that we in fact are violating it."

President Bush has made developing defenses against both long-range and short-range missiles one of his highest national security priorities.

Critics in Congress have sought to derail missile- defense deployment in favor of keeping the ABM Treaty, which they say is essential to preventing an international arms race.

But one critic, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, recently dropped legal provisions curbing missile-defense development in pending legislation after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

A test that was scrapped by the Pentagon included one set for Wednesday that would have involved a ship-based Aegis battle management radar that was to track a strategic missile test target.

The Aegis radar would have tracked a missile interceptor while a separate, multiple-object tracking radar based at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., would have tracked a strategic missile target.

Officials said using the Aegis-equipped ship to help develop a national missile shield may have violated treaty provisions barring the use of nonstrategic weapons for strategic defense purposes.

A second Aegis radar test set for Nov. 14 to track a Titan II missile launch vehicle also was put off.

"For some time now, we've advised the Congress and the government of the Russian Federation that the planned missile-defense testing program that we have was going to bump up against the ABM Treaty," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "That has now happened."

The issue of modifying the treaty to allow a national missile-defense shield will be discussed next month when Russian President Vladimir Putin meets Mr. Bush at the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Mr. Rumsfeld said in announcing the testing curbs that threats from the missiles of rogue nations remain.

Mr. Rumsfeld said nations that support terrorists and terrorist networks have chemical and biological weapons and are working on missiles that can strike the United States and its allies.

"Last month, terrorists took civilian airliners and turned them into missiles, killing thousands," Mr. Rumsfeld said.

"If they had ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction capable of killing hundreds of thousands, I don't think anyone can doubt but that they would have willingly used them."

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