US President George W. Bush marked the US withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) Thursday by promising to deploy a missile defense system as soon as possible to guard against strikes by hostile groups and states.
"I am committed to deploying a missile defense system as soon as possible to protect the American people and our deployed forcesagainst the growing missile threats we face," Bush said in a statement.
The ABM treaty, signed between the United States and the formerSoviet Union in 1972 and having since served as the cornerstone ofstrategic stability, officially expired Thursday, six months afterBush announced his decision to pull out of the treaty amid strong opposition from the international community.
Bush decided to withdraw from the treaty in an effort to build a national missile defense system to guard against long-range missile attacks by so-called rogue states. The treaty had banned such a system.
"We now face new threats from terrorists who seek to destroy our civilization by any means available to rogue states armed withweapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles," the statement said.
Analysts said that Bush chose the low-key approach of marking the treaty's demise out of sensitivity to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who reluctantly accepted Bush's decision to scrap the treaty.
The Pentagon is set to mark the expiration of the treaty by breaking ground this week at Fort Greely, Alaska, to begin the construction of six underground silos for missile interceptors.
It will also conduct a sea-based missile test Thursday night, in which the Aegis guided missile cruiser USS Lake Erie will attempt to shoot down a target missile fired from Hawaii.
(Xinhua News Agency June 14, 2002)