DATE=9/6/2000 TYPE=U-S OPINION ROUNDUP TITLE=PRESIDENT CLINTON DEFERS MISSILE DEFENSE SYSTEM NUMBER=6-11988 BYLINE=ANDREW GUTHRIE DATELINE=WASHINGTON EDITOR=ASSIGNMENTS TELEPHONE=619-3335 INTERNET=YES CONTENT= INTRO: When Ronald Reagan was president and the Soviet Union still posed a threat to the United States with is robust nuclear missile arsenal, a missile- defense was proposed. The system involved building a complex shield of anti-missile missiles, lasers, and radars, to protect the United States from incoming enemy missiles. Millions of dollars was spent on research, but the controversial system was never built. Now it has resurfaced on a much smaller scale and a somewhat revised purpose. It's called the National Missile Defense (N-M-D) system, and again is the subject of considerable controversy. We get a sampling of comment on the latest step in this controversy now from __________ in today's U-S Opinion Roundup. TEXT: This latest version of a nuclear-missile shield for the United States leapt to the forefront of debate in 1998 after a government commission reported that within a few years, Iran and North Korea could conceivably develop long-range nuclear missiles that could hit the United States. [ED'S: North Korea's never-tested Taepo Dong Two missile has a potential range of five-thousand-954- kilometers, a range that would include Hawaii and parts of Alaska.] Congress reacted by suggesting a smaller, anti-nuclear missile program to protect against such potentially limited rogue attacks. Last week, President Clinton decided to defer the decision on building the system to the next president. Editorial opinion has been almost uniformly positive, even from those papers that favor building the system. We begin our sampling in Ohio, where The Akron Beacon Journal agrees with the decision, and also praises the political maneuvering that took the president there. VOICE: Bill Clinton adeptly played the politics of missile defense. He then made the right decision postponing deployment. ... He completed two-years of shrewd triangulating last week, announcing that he would leave the decision ... to his successor. [Mr.] Clinton has long been ambivalent about a missile defense, the prospect of using missiles to destroy missiles launched, say, by terrorists or rogue nations. He has questioned whether the country would enhance its security enough to justify the cost. In 1998, he felt political pressure [from the] Rumsfeld ... Commission ... [However] ... all along, he had made his support conditional. The technology would have to be proven. Allies would have to approve. A compromise with Russia would have to be found. Moscow and Washington both agreed in the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty that national missile defenses would upset the balance of deterrence, making a first strike with nuclear weapons more likely. ... On Friday, the president walked through the exit... he had preserved. TEXT: The Washington Times is upset however, noting that President Clinton's decision is putting Americans at unnecessary risk. VOICE: To its list of missed opportunities, the Clinton-Gore administration can now add the abdication of responsibility for national security. ... President Clinton announced that he would not authorize the deployment of a national missile defense system) N-M-D). Mr. Clinton made his decision even as he acknowledged that the threat of ballistic- missile attack from nations like Iraq, Iran, and North Korea is "real and growing." ... By deciding not to begin construction of the Alaskan radar, Mr. Clinton has indisputably delayed eventual deployment beyond two-thousand- five, when North Korea is estimated to be capable of launching an inter-continental missile against the United States. TEXT: On the other hand, The Los Angeles Times calls it: "[A] Wise Decision on Missile Defense." VOICE: [President] Clinton did the right thing in deferring a decision... His successor will do the right thing if he insists on proof ... the system will work before considering deployment at a projected cost of 60-billion- dollars. That means realistic tests under real- world conditions, something the Pentagon is still a long way from providing. TEXT: In Hawaii, potentially under the threat from a still untested, but long-range North Korean missile, The Honolulu Star Bulletin adds: "The decision is justified because problems remain to be worked out before the system can be considered effective." Even The Free Press in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which feels the nation needs to build and deploy a missile defense system against attack from so-called rogue nations like Iraq, Iran and North Korea, says of the President's move: VOICE: ... it is difficult to fault Mr. Clinton for his no-decision delay because it would not be smart to deploy an inadequate system prematurely. TEXT: The [Trenton, New Jersey] Times, San Antonio [Texas] Express-News, and the Chicago Tribune are all calling it "the right" decision as well. Here are some of the Tribune's thoughts. VOICE: This leaves the tough decision on deployment of a 60-billion-dollar anti-missile system to [Mr.] Clinton's successor, and that is where it belongs. Governor George Bush and Vice President Al Gore ought to use this as an opportunity to engage in a spirited, substantive debate on the issue. It is unfortunate that [Governor] Bush, instead, has taken this as an opportunity to attack the Clinton administration as weak on defense. TEXT: For the view from part of Texas, The San Antonio Express-News adds: VOICE: [Mr.] Clinton ordered the Pentagon to continue testing the technology for the proposed missile defense system and punted the decision to the next president. That is where it belongs. So far, tests have produced mostly negative results, raising questions about the practicality of spending billions of dollars on the plan. Even if a missile system is eventually deployed, [President] Clinton's action gives U-S officials a better chance of avoiding wasteful spending. Approving a system that will cost 60-billion dollars or more without solid evidence of its effectiveness would be fiscal folly. TEXT: On that note from one of the largest papers in Texas, we conclude this sampling of U-S editorial comment on a decision to delay construction of an anti-nuclear missile defensive system. NEB/ANG/RAE 06-Sep-2000 13:52 PM EDT (06-Sep-2000 1752 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .