NATO's secretary-general has criticized a proposed US missile defense system, saying it could split the alliance between the program's supporters and detractors risks, the Financial Times reported yesterday.
"When it comes to missile defense, NATO's members must not be divided into an A-League and a B-league," the newspaper quoted Jaap de Hoop Scheffer as saying in an interview. "For me it is the indivisibility of security that is the guiding principle."
Many NATO allies have expressed strong doubts about the US system, which would operate in Poland and the Czech Republic and would be able to shoot down missiles fired by what Washington terms "rogue states" such as Iran and North Korea.
The Financial Times quoted NATO officials as revealing that the US program could shield most of Europe except for the southeast, which would require an additional shorter-range system to cover its proximity to Iran.
De Hoop Scheffer allegedly stated that the US program could find itself supported by existing NATO plans to roll out a battlefield missile defense system by 2010.
"We are already moving forward with developing systems to protect deployed forces, rather than population centers and territories," the Financial Times had him as saying. "There could be at a later stage a relationship between the two systems."
De Hoop Scheffer also outlined what he saw as a real missile threat to Europe.
"There is every reason to believe that, given the North Korean missile tests and Iran's capability and rhetoric."
At a news conference following an EU summit in Brussels on Friday, French President Jacques Chirac attacked the US system, saying it could threaten to reopen old divisions on the European continent.
The Czech Republic last week dismissed criticism of its negotiations with the US on the missile shield after Luxembourg expressed fears this would renew tensions with Russia.
(China Daily March 13, 2007)