The United States formally withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty on Thursday and President Bush called for an aggressive push to build missile defenses against "terrorists" and "rogue" states who could work together to try to destroy US civilization.
The 1972 treaty served as a bedrock of US-Soviet nuclear deterrence by essentially barring either side from building missile defenses, leaving each vulnerable to the other's arsenal and therefore with little incentive to attack because of the likely massive retaliation.
Bush on Dec. 13 announced his decision to pull out of the treaty in six months, having derided it as a Cold War relic and warned of new threats from what he has called rogue states or terrorists that might attack the United States.
In a sign of Bush's determination to push ahead with a missile defense system, the Pentagon is set to break ground this week at Fort Greely, Alaska, on the previously prohibited construction of six underground silos for missile interceptors.
"As the events of Sept. 11 made clear, we no longer live in the Cold War world for which the ABM Treaty was designed," Bush said in a written statement marking the formal US withdrawal from the 30-year-old treaty.
"We now face new threats from terrorists who seek to destroy our civilization by any means available to rogue states armed with weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles," he added. "Defending the American people against these threats is my highest priority as commander in chief."
The term "rogue states" dates to the Clinton administration and is used to denote countries viewed by the United States as a threat, generally including Iran, Iraq and North Korea -- the three nations that Bush has called an "axis of evil."
Bush made clear he would aggressively pursue a defense system against enemy missiles despite questions about how long it would take to develop one, how effective such a system would actually be and how many billions of dollars it would cost.
"With the treaty now behind us, our task is to develop and deploy effective defenses against limited missile attacks," he said. "I am committed to deploying a missile defense system as soon as possible to protect the American people and our deployed forces against the growing missile threats we face."
The president also called on Congress to fully fund his US$7.8 billion budget request for missile defense for the US fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1, 2002.
(China Daily June 14, 2002)