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Wednesday, 18 December, 2002, 09:47 GMT
Russia 'regrets' US anti-missile plan
Test launch from Vandenberg AFB, Ca
There have been eight tests so far
Russia has expressed regret at President George W Bush's decision to deploy a system to defend the United States against ballistic missiles.

Moscow "is following the intensification of the US attempts to create a so-called 'global missile system' with regret," the Russian foreign ministry stated on Wednesday reported the Interfax news agency.

Consigning the principles of the ABM treaty to oblivion can lead only to a new senseless arms race in the world

Russian statement
The US formally withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty in June which it signed with the then Soviet Union in 1972.

Washington says the missile defence system aims to reduce the threat from what it calls "rogue states" - including Iraq, Iran and North Korea - rather than Russia.

Russia said consigning principles of the treaty to "oblivion can only weaken strategic stability and cause a new senseless global arms race, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery."

There would also be a "diversion of resources from opposing today's threats and challenges, primarily international terrorism," the statement added.

The plan calls for 10 interceptor missiles to be ready by 2004 - a "modest" capability that would serve as a starting point towards better defence, Mr Bush said in a written statement.

President George Bush
The United States will take every necessary measure to protect our citizens

George W Bush

The decision comes days after the latest failure of an anti-missile test over the Pacific Ocean.

Despite this, the programme is gathering pace, with Mr Bush on Tuesday also requesting the use of facilities in the UK and Greenland.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the announcement had nothing to do with North Korea's reactivation of its nuclear programme, but was part of a well-known plan and was based on scientific progress.

Getting started

The initial deployment of 10 interceptors in 2004 is to be followed by another 10 a year later. They will include ground-based interceptors, sea-based interceptors, additional Patriot (PAC-3) units, and sensors based on land, at sea, and in space.

Mr Bush described these facilities as a "starting point for improved and expanded capabilities later as further progress is made in researching and developing missile defence technologies and in light of changes in the threat".

There have been eight tests of interceptor missiles so far. Three have failed.

There has been considerable scepticism that the eventual goal - a comprehensive shield capable of protecting the US from any missile attack - will ever be achievable.

But Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld said the US had to put in an initial capability, and then learn through both successes and failures.

Map of missile defence shield plans
The missile shield is well beyond the planning stages
Some experts say that, given the variety of threats facing the US, the money could be better spent on countering terrorism rather than missile attack.

But BBC defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus says that, with sufficient time and money, the Americans will come up with a working system.

The US has requested to update two early-warning radar stations for the programme - the Fylingdales base in northern England and the radar station at an American Air Force base in Greenland.

US Missile Defence

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17 Dec 02 | Americas
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