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The BBC's Andy Beatt
"While in theory the US could go it alone, it would be difficult"
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Gordon Adams, George Washington University
"The threat would be from the ground or from space itself"
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Former US State Dept official Lee Feinstein
"It raises some very tough questions"
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Tuesday, 8 May, 2001, 22:04 GMT 23:04 UK
US launches missile charm offensive
Missile defence graphic
Senior United States officials have held talks in Brussels, London and Tokyo at the start of a diplomatic drive to overcome resistance to President Bush's plan for an anti-missile defence shield.

Nato and UK officials welcomed the consultations, which are to continue in Paris on Wednesday, Berlin on Thursday and Moscow on Friday.

What we were trying to do today was to expand people's minds and see how we want deterrence to function in the 21st century

Marc Grossman, US Under-secretary of State for Defence
Missile defence is controversial in Europe. Several governments think it is unnecessary to meet the threat posed by "rogue states" and will upset the strategic balance between Russia and the US.

In a related development, the US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced a reorganisation of the military's space programmes to provide a more comprehensive and co-ordinated approach.

Mr Rumsfeld said space operations would be merged into a new command within the US Air Force, which would become the lead department for all space activities.

More than any other country, the United States relies on space for its security and wellbeing

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
He said the management of space operations reflected their importance in the nation's defence - a comment which correspondents say reflects the administration's commitment to a missile defence shield.

The new plan is part of a major effort by the new administration to update security strategy and modernise the US military.

It is a direct response to warnings issued earlier this year by a government panel that said the US was vulnerable to a surprise attack on its space assets.

Washington's emphasis, as it pursues plans for a missile defence shield, is now on consultation with its allies.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
Rumsfeld: No link between missile defence and re-organisation of military space programmes
"This close relationship with friends and allies and the consultative process is extremely, extremely important," Marc Grossman, US Under-secretary of State for Defence, said in Brussels.

Nato and British officials welcomed the exercise and stressed the friendly atmosphere of the talks.

But BBC diplomatic correspondent Barnaby Mason says, there seem to have been few if any answers to specific questions.

The Americans talked of a new framework of co-operation with the Russians going beyond the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which the US administration regards as out of date.

British officials said the Americans were unable to give any details about what that framework would be.


There was no word, either, of what kind of anti-missile system might be deployed - whether land or sea-based or both - or when.

According to officials in London, the key question of upgrading radar and communications facilities in northern England was not raised by either side.

Protest groups are already gearing up to oppose that, years ahead of any deployment.

The American officials told the British side that the United States would talk to the Chinese as well as the Russians about missile defence; and they acknowledged that China was the most difficult problem.

The Chinese fear the credibility of their small force of nuclear missiles will be undermined.

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