- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 17, 2002

President Bush has decided to begin deploying by 2004 a nationwide defense system against ballistic missiles, The Washington Times has learned.
Mr. Bush is expected to announce the decision today, with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other defense officials then describing the details of the deployment plan.
The decision comes a year after the United States withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty to allow more effective research and development of a system to shoot down long-range and short-range missiles. It also fulfills a presidential campaign promise Mr. Bush made in May 2000.
It marks the first time since the 1960s that the U.S. government will field an anti-missile system. President Reagan first announced the major shift toward strategic defenses and away from offensive nuclear missiles in 1983.
Until now, the Pentagon was investigating whether various methods of shooting down incoming missiles were feasible. Based on the past year of work on missile defenses, Mr. Bush decided to go forward with the limited system.
According to a senior administration official, the deployment plan calls for fielding 10 ground-based interceptor missiles at Fort Greeley, Alaska, by 2004 and an additional 10 interceptors by 2005 or 2006.
The system will provide the United States with a limited defense against long-range missile threats, primarily those posed by rogue states. Recent missile tests and U.S. intelligence reports have pinpointed North Korea, Iran and Iraq as the likeliest nations to pose such a threat.
The interceptors will be guided to targets by a global network of radars and sensors that will identify and track long-range missiles.
To deal with short-range and medium-range missiles, the Pentagon plans to deploy an updated version of the Navy's Standard Missile-3 on ships equipped with the Aegis battle management system.
American missile-defense plans have been criticized by Russia and China, most recently at a meeting earlier this month between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Jiang Zemin.
The decision comes amid heightened tensions about North Korea, which announced recently that it is considering lifting its moratorium on missile flight tests. Pyongyang surprised U.S. intelligence agencies by flight-testing a long-range Taepo Dong missile in August 1998. North Korea also revealed that it had been secretly developing uranium-based nuclear weapons and would restart nuclear reactors that had been shut under a 1994 agreement.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said in an Oct. 24 speech that "moving forward on missile defense, particularly by taking advantage of new technological opportunities, is an essential part of a strategy to provide the range of capabilities necessary to defend against the broad spectrum of new threats and challenges that we will confront in the 21st century."
Mr. Wolfowitz said the threat from short-range missiles "is here with us today" and that the threat from long-range missiles "may still be a few years away."
By withdrawing from the ABM Treaty, "we may now be in a position to be able to respond before that threat emerges," he said.
Preparatory construction at the first missile-defense site at Fort Greeley began in June, and other elements of the missile-defense test site will be built beginning in 2003.
In the past year, the Pentagon has begun conducting tests with short-range missile-defense systems that were prohibited by the ABM Treaty and has built and tested mobile and sea-based sensors that detect and track missiles.
"Our missile-defense program since 2001 has demonstrated that missile technology, in particular hit-to-kill technology, actually works," Mr. Wolfowitz said. "We actually can hit a bullet with a bullet."
A recent missile-defense test failed, however, on Dec. 11, when an interceptor rocket did not separate from its booster. Four earlier tests were successful.
Mr. Bush announced on Dec. 13, 2001, that the United States was withdrawing from the ABM Treaty.
"I have concluded the ABM Treaty hinders our government's ability to develop ways to protect our people from future terrorist or rogue state missile attacks," Mr. Bush said at the time.
Critics said the treaty withdrawal would lead to a new strategic-arms race, although the reaction from Russia and China has not gone beyond verbal criticism.
Mr. Wolfowitz said in his speech that the war against terrorism should not mean that the United States should stop developing missile defenses.
"It is clear that potential adversaries will pursue any means they can to exploit the vulnerabilities of a free society," he said.
"They will exploit the freedom and privacy rights in the West. They will exploit our reluctance to kill innocent civilians in time of war. And they most certainly will seek to exploit our near total vulnerability to ballistic missile and cruise missile attack."

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