- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 7, 2002

When the World Trade Center came crashing down opponents of a national missile defense cried that the real threat is from terrorists and defenses against missiles are not needed. But the American people would not buy it they want protection against both. And the attacks showed that if terrorists had missiles, they would use them. In poll after poll, over 70 percent of respondents support a national missile defense.

The public is correct. The danger is continuing, as described in a recently issued National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on "the ballistic missile threat through 2015." Prepared for Congress by the intelligence community, it describes the continuing growth of ballistic missile capabilities. Following are a few of the main points:

• Between now and 2015 the U.S. most likely will face an ICBM threat from North Korea and Iran, and possibly Iraq, in addition to Russia and China.

• Short-and medium-range missiles already pose a significant threat overseas to U.S. interests, military forces and allies.

• States with ballistic missiles are increasing their range, reliability and accuracy.

• Proliferation, especially from Russia, China and North Korea, is enabling emerging missile states to accelerate their development of missiles.

Russia has by far the largest arsenal of nuclear-armed missiles facing the U.S., but retirements and aging will reduce its force from nearly 6,000 strategic warheads to less than 2,000. China, however, is expected to increase its ICBMs targeted on the U.S. from about 20 aging CSS-4s to an estimated 75-100 new road-mobile DF-31s, plus some new JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missiles. China also has a robust force of short- and medium-range missiles deployed opposite Taiwan and continues to field them at a rapid pace.

North Korea has hundreds of Scuds and Nodong missiles that hold at risk U.S. forces in South Korea and Japan. The NIE says the Taepo Dong-2, North Korea's long-range missile under development, could deliver a nuclear weapon to all of North America if it were used with a third stage of the type the North flight tested in 1998.

The report adds that the Taepo Dong-2 now may be ready for flight-testing, and that North Korea has produced at least one or two nuclear weapons.

Iran also is a growing threat, with a large arsenal of missiles, including more than 1,300 medium-range Shahab-3s. Now able to threaten U.S. forces and allies in the Middle East, Iran is developing an intermediate-range missile that could reach much of Europe and an ICBM capability that would be a danger to the U.S. The NIE states that Iran has chemical and biological weapons programs and could have nuclear weapons by the end of the decade.

Iraq has a substantial missile development infrastructure, but is constrained by U.N. sanctions. If the sanctions are lifted, however, Iraq quickly could resume production of Scud-type missiles and cluster them to reach more distant targets. With foreign assistance, Iraq could develop medium- and long-range ballistic missiles fairly quickly. Prior to the Gulf war, Iraq had major chemical and biological weapons programs and continues to maintain those programs.

Libya has large chemical and biological weapons programs and keeps trying to buy missiles that can reach Europe. Syria has hundreds of operational short-range ballistic missiles that threaten Israel, has chemical weapon warheads for its Scuds, and is developing biological weapons. India and Pakistan are deploying short- and medium-range missiles and both have stores of nuclear weapons.

What are the implications of this new intelligence report? One conclusion is that missile technology continues to spread and the danger of missiles armed with weapons of mass destruction is not going away. Short- and medium-range missiles could be used in regional conflicts in the Taiwan Strait, the Middle East, and between India and Pakistan.

Some defenses against these weapons already exist. The Arrow interceptor is protecting Israel, and Patriot PAC-2s are operational in Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, the Middle East and elsewhere. What is needed now is to accelerate production of the Patriot PAC-3, which has much greater capabilities, and get it into the field as soon as possible.

Unlike shorter-range models, intercontinental nuclear missiles are not likely to be used. Their main role is deterrence, but some have used them to blackmail and intimidate. North Korea used its nuclear weapons program and missiles to demand billions in tribute from the West. China's generals used theirs to warn the U.S. not to defend Taiwan.

Blackmail and intimidation, and the constraints they put on U.S. and allied freedom of action, are unacceptable. A national missile defense is needed to prevent the paralysis of U.S. power, and to protect the country if deterrence fails. It is important to get the first interceptors and radars in place in Alaska without delay.


James Hackett is a contributing writer to The Washington Times based in San Diego.


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