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Bush's Missile Defense Plan Draws Criticism
The plan of US President George W. Bush to begin deploying a limited missile defense system in 2004 has drawn criticism both at home and from abroad.

Critics at home slammed the move as premature and likely to result in a waste of billions of dollars on inadequate technology,and doubting that it will offer much protection in the next few years.

Senator Carl Levin, a Democrat from Michigan and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Bush's plan "violates common sense by determining to deploy systems before they have been tested and shown to work."

Representative John Spratt of South Carolina, a leading Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said key elements of the missile defense system are behind schedule or have not been successfully tested. "We shouldn't fool ourselves about the capacity of the system," he said.

Lisbeth Gronlund, a physicist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the plan was unrealistic and illusory. "The appropriate analogy is to the emperor's new clothes. They're in the middle of research and development and still lack many of the elements needed for the system."

John Isaacs, president of the Council for a Livable World, said,"The timing is simply a political decision to get something in the ground before the 2004 election."

"The system that will be deployed will be blind and deaf. The radars will not be ready, the early warning satellites will not beready, and the missiles have not been thoroughly tested," he said.


Money is another major problem as the country's economy is declining, critics say. The anti-missile program has cost 16 billion dollars over the past two years and will cost 17.5 billiondollars in the next two years, Pentagon officials said.

Bush on Tuesday ordered the initial deployment of a national missile defense system designed to shoot down long-range missiles before they reach the United States.

The president described the system as "modest," but said it would "add to American security and serve as a starting point for improved and expanded capabilities later, as further progress is made in researching and developing missile defense technologies."

According to General Ronald Kadish, director of the Missile Defense Agency, the weapons to be deployed include six ground-based interceptors to be based in Alaska by the end of 2004, with 10 more added a year later. Four interceptors would be in California, for a total of 20 by the end of 2005. Twenty Standard Missile-3 interceptors would be aboard three Navy ships.

Hundreds of the Army's Patriot PAC-3 missiles would also be deployed around the world to knock down shorter-range missiles in the final phases of their flights. The extra 1.5 billion dollars Bush is seeking also would buy 346 more Patriots.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld cautioned against viewing the plan as fool proof. He described the planned initial capability as "better than nothing" and said it would evolve in ways that incorporate technological advances, lessons learned from testing and help from allies.

Bush's order came six days after the latest test of the anti-missile system failed when an interceptor missile did not separate from its booster rocket. So far, five tests of the system have succeeded, but three have failed.

Bush's missile defense program was also widely criticized by the international community. Russia, China and some other countries have expressed their concerns that the program could lead to a renewed arms race in the world.

On Wednesday, Russia expressed regret over the US decision to begin deploying strategic interceptors, saying the move would destabilize the international security system and lead to a new arms race.

"Moscow with regret follows the activation of the attempt by the United States to create a so-called 'global anti-missile defense.' Now, after taking a political decision to deploy in 2004several strategic interceptors with support from space, the realization of these plans has entered a new destabilizing phase,"the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The statement also expressed its concern the focus on the missile system will divert resources from "today's real challengesand threats" from international terrorism.

In Britain, former lawmaker Tony Benn and George Hutchinson of the World Disarmament Campaign wrote in The Guardian newspaper that the proposed use of a British installation for the missile shield was "stupid and dangerous."

"Missiles to hit missiles are very unlikely to work. Giving theUS more rights over this country would need very explicit permission by parliament and in the present international situation would make us a more likely target for terrorist attack,without increasing our security," they wrote.

Washington has asked Britain to upgrade an early warning radar system at Fylingdales in northern England to enhance the program to protect both the United States and allies from attack.

The US has also formally asked Denmark to allow the Thule US radar station in Greenland, a Danish overseas territory, to be used in plans to develop the missile defense system.

The request has provoked a deep divide in Denmark. While Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen is in favor of the shield, the opposition Social Democratic Party said the government's green light might cause a new arms race.

"We are very sceptical towards this shield, which is not the right response to the threat of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction," party spokesman Jeppe Kofoed said.

(Xinhua News Agency December 19, 2002)

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