Index

DATE=5/30/2000 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=MISSILE DEFENSE-THREE NUMBER=5-46403 BYLINE=ED WARNER DATELINE=WASHINGTON CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Whether or not it works as intended, critics worry that a proposed U-S ballistic missile defense system could prompt a nuclear arms race. The critics fear Russia and China might be sufficiently worried to add to their offensive weapons, and thus to global nuclear instability. Supporters of a U-S missile defense project say the reaction of these nuclear powers would be much more limited. In the final segment of a three-part series, V-O-A's Ed Warner reports on these differing views. TEXT: China says a U-S missile defense system would neutralize its small nuclear arsenal. So it would have no choice but to add to its offensive nuclear weapons aimed at the United States. Washington says its proposed missile defense system is designed to shoot down missiles from rogue states such as North Korea. Beijing replies that is nice to hear, but that it cannot rely on American assurances alone. Kurt Gottfried is chairman of the Union of Concerned Scientists and professor of physics at Cornell University. He says China has a point: /// Gottfried Act /// I think that Korea is a stalking horse (EDS: pretext for a much bigger system). In fact, I think some people have explicitly said that the objective is a large system which will defend against any foreseeable enemy, in particular China. There will be a new national intelligence estimate that if we deploy the national missiles defense system, China will accelerate its build-up of strategic weapons, even if we just deploy a system that is aimed at Korea. /// End Act /// China is a modernizing power intent on building up its nuclear force, says Barry Blechman, chairman of Washington's Stimson Center. It will do this regardless of a U-S missile defense system: /// Blechman Act /// China has a very small force of very old missiles, which are obsolete and do not now constitute a reliable deterrence. They apparently stole plans from us for more modern weapons and have tested them and are in the midst of a development program which will give them the capability to deploy a modern missile force, and I would expect them to do that whatever our action is. /// End Act /// Russia does not have the same kind of worries. It has too many nuclear weapons to be overcome by the planned U-S defense system. Robert Kagan-- a senior associate at Carnegie Endowment, another Washington policy research group, says the Russian reaction may be a matter of economics. Moscow will have to decide how much it wants to spend to upgrade its force as a counter measure to a U-S defense: /// Kagan Act /// Given the size of the system that the current administration is contemplating at any rate, there is really no need for them to take any measures. They already will have enough weapons to overwhelm the contemplated American system, and as cash-strapped as Russia is right now, I find it hard to believe they will want to spend the kind of money necessary to upgrade their nuclear program. /// End Act /// Many U-S supporters of ballistic missile defense insist they want to work as closely as possible with Russia on development of the system. They think that should ease Russian fears. Barry Blechman says this cooperation can start now: /// Blechman Act /// Immediately, we can begin discussions with them about what this new framework would look like. We can begin to establish a system to share early warning data -- satellite information from their systems and our systems that monitor when missiles are launched. Over time, if we establish friendly relations with them -- which is our goal, after all -- then we could move to a single global system, which tries to protect everybody. /// End Act /// Mr. Blechman says an ideal world would have as few nuclear weapons as possible and secure defenses against them. (Signed) NEB/EW/JP 30-May-2000 13:42 PM EDT (30-May-2000 1742 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .