- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 17, 2002

The results of the Pentagon's latest missile defense test Friday night over the Pacific demonstrate that the test program is "showing some quite impressive success," Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said yesterday.
In the test, a prototype interceptor rocket, launched from a tiny Pacific island near the equator, smashed into a dummy warhead 140 miles above the ocean, destroying them both.
The test warhead was on a modified Minuteman II missile launched nearly 5,000 miles away at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. It was the sixth test of a prototype of a ground-based missle defense system and the fourth successful destruction of a dummy warhead.
In a wide-ranging interview on CNN's "Novak, Hunt & Shields," Mr. Wolfowitz said the test Friday night marked the "first time we have had anything that looked like a decoy warhead," and the interceptor "picked out the real warhead from the decoys."
He stressed that the test conducted was not a "realistic" analysis of "what intercepts would have to do," and the decoys used are "not as good a decoy as we would expect to face later."
"We're in a development program; people need to understand that," Mr. Wolfowitz said. "We are going to push where there is success. We killed one program this year because it wasn't working well. We have said over and over again it's an important area, where we are going to go down the avenues that work and cut off the avenues that don't."
The Bush administration says the United States needs a national missile defense system to protect against the possibility of such rogue nations as North Korea, Iraq or Iran from firing long-range missiles at this country.
The U.S. military is developing other types of anti-missile systems, besides the ground-based approach. In a test earlier this year, a ship-based interceptor rocket successfully knocked out a dummy warhead.
At least 19 more tests are needed before the ground-based missile defense system can be fully functional, Lt. Col. Rick Lehner, a spokesman for the Defense Department's Missile Defense Agency, told the Associated Press. He said tests are planned every three months and will continue for the next four to five years.
In the CNN interview yesterday, Mr. Wolfowitz was asked about the likelihood the United States will take military action against Iraq in an effort to topple Saddam Hussein from power. The United States has accused the Iraqi leader of developing weapons of mass destruction and considers him a continued threat to the stability of the Middle East.
"We have not made any decision yet about what to do in Iraq militarily or any other way," Mr. Wolfowitz said. "I mean, the president has stated there's a problem. He has all his options on the table, as he said. I think, in every case, our preference is always to try to solve these things through diplomatic means, if it's possible."
The deputy defense secretary acknowledged that Saddam has "shown great resistance to accepting any reasonable outcome," but Mr. Wolfowitz stressed no decision has been made on whether U.S. military force will be used against the Iraqi dictator.
"There has been no decision by the president on what to do. Let's make that clear," he said.
Mr. Wolfowitz also said nations that regularly declare their hostility to the United States, cooperate with terrorists and pursue the development of weapons of mass destruction are the "most noxious group possible."
Such countries, he said, could precipitate an event that could kill "tens of thousands or millions of Americans."
"We have to do something about it," Mr. Wolfowitz said.


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