U.S. Missile Defense System Receives Criticism Internationally

* Defense Secretary William Cohen said July 24th that he plans to send a recommendation to President Clinton within three or four weeks on whether to begin building a so-called National Missile Defense system. This system has been called "son of Star Wars" in reference to former US President Ronald Reagan's proposal to shoot incoming missiles from space with a laser.

The plan currently is to put missiles on Alaskan soil supposedly capable of intercepting intercontinental ballistic missiles. But in two out of three interception attempts since last October, the U.S. military has failed to shoot down target ballistic missiles in tests over the Pacific Ocean. Still defense officials would like to start working on the first missile defense plan radar in Alaska next year.

Clinton is being urged by critics, and even some supporters of the plan, as well as scientists, to delay a decision on the Alaska radar because the technology is not ready and the plan is estimated to cost at least $60 billion.

Not only is Alaska targeted for a missile base, but according to the West Australian press, there is also a proposal for a missile test range in northern West Australia. In a recent statement by Australian foreign minister Downer, Australia 'understands' that U.S. plans to proceed with the missile plan, and with possible Australian involvement in the plan. The Australian Senate voted against Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD), or as the current plan is called, National Missile Defense (NMD) also formerly known as Star Wars. BMD/Star Wars will violate the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, and will most probably give rise to another arms race. United States and Australian defense officials have targeted northern West Australia as a site from which to launch ballistic missiles for U.S. warships to use as target practice within five years. In Australia, some defense officials are resisting pressure from the U.S. to cooperate in a joint ballistic missile test range in northern West Australia. Instead, the Australian navy is trying to get U.S. cooperation for a range on the east coast to test wave-skimming missiles because this is the kind of weaponry more likely to be used against Australian ships. China's state media has accused Australia of being a "cat's paw" for the U.S. and warned that the missile system would "send global arms control out of control".

Last week, during a tour of China, North Korea and Japan by Russia's President Vladimir Putin, Russia and China signed a joint statement condemning the proposed U.S. missile defense system. The statement accused the U.S. of attempting to secure unilateral superiority in military and security issues.

Numerous countries have asked the U.S. not to proceed with BMD/Star Wars, and within the U.S., 50 Nobel prizewinners have asked the U.S. government to give up the idea as have the Federation of Atomic Scientists, Congressional Representatives, Generals, and peace organizations. The people living in northern West Australia are extremely upset over this proposal to use the area to test U.S. missiles. According to Australian peace groups it is time to say a clear 'no' to the U.S. National Missile Defense plan. One peace activist clearly summed up the missile issue stating, "Why is public debate mired today in a duel between deterrence and defense, with scant attention to missile disarmament?"

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