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Friday, 26 January, 2001, 23:10 GMT
Bush confirms 'Star Wars' plan
'Son of Star Wars' graphic
US President George W Bush has confirmed that he will go ahead with a controversial missile defence system, despite the concerns of some Nato allies and the outright opposition of Russia and China.

He also restated his intention to cut back the US nuclear arsenal.

"The president has not been ambivalent about this," the new US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, told a Pentagon news conference, referring to the missile defence system.

"He intends to deploy."


He has concluded that it's not in our country's interest to perpetuate vulnerability

Donald Rumsfeld

Mr Rumsfeld dismissed suggestions that the national missile defence (NMD) - nicknamed "Son of Star Wars" - would contravene the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, which is one of the cornerstones of superpower arms control.

Mr Rumsfeld said the ABM treaty was fashioned a long time ago and the Soviet Union - which signed it with the United States - no longer existed.

Russian warning

The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, had earlier repeated his warning that the United States should not deploy such a system.

Missile test
Tests on the system failed last July
Mr Putin said NMD deployment would do "irreparable damage to the architecture of international relations".

President Bush reiterated that he would fulfil two campaign promises: to deploy the NMD and reduce the US nuclear arsenal.

"I think it's important for us, commensurate with our ability to keep the peace, to reduce our nuclear arsenal on our own, and I'm going to fulfill that campaign promise," he said.

"We'll see how that affects possible arms talks."

Referring to NMD, he said: "I want America to lead the world toward a more safe world when it comes to nuclear weaponry.

"On the offensive side we can do so, and we can do so on the defensive side as well."

Former President Bill Clinton left any decision on NMD deployment to the next administration, after two out of three tests on the system failed.

Missile cuts

Russia and the United States agreed under the Start II treaty to cut their nuclear arsenals from more than 6,000 deployed weapons to 3,000 - 3,500 by 2007.

Donald Rumsfeld
Donald Rumsfeld: Post-Cold War world is "very different"

Mr Putin has warned that Russia will scrap all existing arms control agreements if Washington reneges on the ABM treaty.

During the US election campaign Mr Bush said the US could cut its nuclear arsenal beyond the limits set out in existing treaties without harming national security.

The Bush administration plans to conduct a thorough review of US relations with Russia.

"Our relationship with Russia is very complex," said White House National Security Council spokeswoman Mary Ellen Countryman.

"We are going to be doing a comprehensive review, we want to address all issues."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Rob Watson
"Moscow will be hard to persuade"
See also:

27 Jan 01 | Americas
The battle over missile defence
12 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Hague backs 'Star Wars' scheme
23 May 00 | Europe
Bush unveils nuclear policy
13 Dec 00 | Asia-Pacific
China tests ballistic missiles
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