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DATE=3/15/99 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT NUMBER=2-246661 TITLE=SENATE-MISSILE DEFENSE (L-ONLY) BYLINE=DAVID SWAN DATELINE=CAPITOL HILL CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: THE U-S SENATE HAS TAKEN UP A LONG-RUNNING CONTROVERSY OVER MISSILE DEFENSE - THIS TIME WITH THE ARGUMENTS FUELED BY CHINA'S ALLEGED THEFT OF NUCLEAR BOMB SECRETS. V-O-A'S DAVID SWAN REPORTS, A VOTE ON A MISSILE DEFENSE PROPOSAL IS EXPECTED IN THE NEXT FEW DAYS. TEXT: THE BILL IS JUST ONE SENTENCE LONG AND CONTAINS NO MONEY BUT IS STILL THE FOCUS OF INTENSE DEBATE. THE MEASURE SIMPLY DECLARES IT U-S POLICY TO DEPLOY A NATIONAL MISSILE DEFENSE SYSTEM AS SOON AS TECHNOLOGY ALLOWS, TO GUARD AGAINST LIMITED BALLISTIC MISSILE ATTACKS. WHILE THE IDEA HAS EXISTED SINCE THE REAGAN ADMINISTRATION, THE ISSUE HAS GROWN MORE POLITICALLY CHARGED IN LIGHT OF DISCLOSURES THAT CHINA MAY HAVE OBTAINED U-S NUCLEAR WARHEAD TECHNOLOGY. REPUBLICAN SENATOR JESSE HELMS SAYS THIS MAKES A NATIONWIDE MISSILE SHIELD ALL THE MORE URGENT. // HELMS ACT // CHINA IS ON THE VERGE OF TRIPLING OR QUADRUPLING THE NUMBER OF WARHEADS POINTED AT AMERICAN CITIES. AND THIS MR. (SENATE) PRESIDENT IS THE VERY SAME COUNTRY THAT FLEXED ITS MILITARY MIGHT BY FIRING MISSILES IN THE STRAIT OF TAIWAN IN AN EFFORT TO INTIMIDATE A LONGSTANDING AND PEACEFUL ALLY OF THE UNITED STATES. // END ACT // THE BILL IS OPPOSED BY MOST DEMOCRATS AND THE WHITE HOUSE. THE ADMINISTRATION HAS SAID SOME FORM OF MISSILE DEFENSE IS JUSTIFIED, IN LIGHT OF THE THREAT FROM ROGUE STATES LIKE IRAQ OR NORTH KOREA. BUT OFFICIALS FEAR THIS PROPOSAL WOULD RUSH THE NATION INTO DEPLOYING A COSTLY, UNTESTED SYSTEM AND ALL BUT DESTROY THE ANTI-BALLISTIC MISSILE (A-B-M) TREATY WITH RUSSIA. DEMOCRATIC SENATOR CARL LEVIN SAYS THE PLAN SENDS THE WRONG MESSAGE TO MOSCOW - ONE WEEK BEFORE A WASHINGTON VISIT BY RUSSIA'S PRIME MINISTER. // LEVIN ACT // AND I JUST WONDER HOW THE U-S SENATE WOULD REACT, MADAM PRESIDENT IF ON THE EVE OF AN AMERICAN PRESIDENT'S VISIT TO MOSCOW, THE RUSSIAN DUMA PASSED LEGISLATION THAT UNDERMINES ONE OF THE BASIC FOUNDATIONS OF U-S RUSSIAN RELATIONS. YOU CAN BET IT WOULD CAUSE ONE HECK OF AN UPROAR HERE. // END ACT // RUSSIA REACTED SHARPLY THIS YEAR WHEN THE UNITED STATES RAISED THE PROSPECT OF LOOSENING OR RETHINKING THE A-B-M ACCORD. HOWEVER, THE SENATE IS LIKELY TO PASS THE BILL SOMETIME THIS WEEK. SHOULD THE HOUSE (OF REPRESENTATIVES) FOLLOW SUIT, IT WOULD SET THE STAGE FOR A VETO FIGHT WITH THE PRESIDENT.(SIGNED) NEB/DS/PT 15-Mar-99 6:13 PM EST (2313 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .