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Friday, 14 June, 2002, 05:02 GMT 06:02 UK
US downs missile in space
Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and George Bush cancel the ABM Treaty
Bush said the ABM Treaty was a relic of the Cold War
The United States has successfully destroyed a missile in space with a rocket fired from a Navy ship, hours after a treaty with Russia ending a ban on missile defence systems came into effect.

Pentagon officials said the exercise showed an incoming missile could be intercepted by a rocket guided by a warship's radar.

The test gave an important boost to President George W Bush's plans to build a protective shield against a foreign missile attack.

Click here for details of the nuclear balance

Earlier, Mr Bush vowed to speed up work on missile defence to protect America from what he called terrorists and rogue states.

Direct hit

In the latest test, an Aries dummy missile was fired from a site in Hawaii, and an interceptor rocket was launched from the USS Erie, in the Pacific.

USS Erie
The interceptor was guided by a warship radar

The ship's radar tracked the dummy missile and guided the rocket to intercept it more than 100 miles (161 kilometres) above the ocean.

Military officials said the test would not have violated the 1972 ABM Treaty with Moscow because it was conducted under controlled conditions and did not prove whether a real intercontinental missile could be brought down.

The results would, however, be useful in developing a missile defence system, they said.

Treaty obsolete

Hours earlier, the United States officially withdrew from the 1972 treaty.


I am committed to deploying a missile defence system as soon as possible to protect the American people

President Bush

That treaty served as the cornerstone of US-Soviet nuclear deterrence by eliminating the incentive to attack the other side because of the threat of massive retaliation without protection.

In a statement marking America's withdrawal from the treaty, President Bush said modern-day threats created a need for a national defense system.

"As the events of 11 September made clear, we no longer live in the Cold War world for which the ABM Treaty was designed.

"We now face new threats from terrorists who seek to destroy our civilisation by any means available to rogue states armed with weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles," he said.

Defence plans

Mr Bush said he was "committed to deploying a missile defence system as soon as possible to protect the American people".

Plans for a missile defence system have been criticised by opponents for being too expensive and unreliable.

But with five successful missile tests in a row, the Pentagon is determined to push ahead with its plans.

Work will begin next weekend on construction of six underground silos for missile interceptors, prohibited while the ABM Treaty was in force.

Military officials say a rudimentary missile defence system should be in place over Alaska by the year 2004.


Nuclear arsenal information

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13 Dec 01 | Americas
13 May 02 | In Depth
04 Dec 01 | Americas
14 Nov 01 | Americas
14 Nov 01 | Americas
16 Jul 01 | Europe
13 Jul 01 | Americas
12 Dec 01 | Americas
12 Dec 01 | Americas
13 Jun 02 | Americas
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