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  Rumsfeld says US does not intend to violate ABM Treaty
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posted 18-7-2001 10:48    
Rumsfeld says US does not intend to violate ABM Treaty

17 July 2001

Answering questions on missile defence and the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty at a 16 July congressional hearing, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the United States does not make a practice of violating treaties "and we certainly don't intend to here."

President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin have already agreed that there will be discussions between the United States and Russia "in the weeks and months immediately ahead," Rumsfeld told members of the House Appropriations Committee during testimony on the amended defence budget.

Bush "has announced publicly, unambiguously, and repeatedly that he intends to find and establish some sort of a framework beyond the ABM Treaty, which is a 30-year old treaty that "was designed explicitly to prohibit ballistic missile defence," Rumsfeld said.

Bush intends to implement a ballistic missile defence "to protect the population centres of the United States as well as of our friends and allies and our deployed forces," according to the secretary, who spoke following a successful ballistic missile interceptor test that occurred over the central Pacific Ocean on 15 July.

To fulfil the president's objective, Rumsfeld said "you are going to have to find a way around that treaty" and that is what the discussions with the Russians intend to do. Initial discussions already have taken place at the presidential and foreign affairs and defence ministerial levels, he said, and "we intend to be in close discussion with them" in the near future.

During an 11 July background briefing at the Pentagon two senior Defense Department officials discussed missile defense and ABM Treaty issues. These issues "are all in compliance review (by the ABM Treaty Compliance Review Group) and we'll have to let that process decide whether or not we have a problem" with future missile defence tests, "but until now we haven't had a problem with treaty compliance," one official said.

The newly restructured missile defence programme is based upon the premise that the United States will build the best missile defence possible "without the consideration of ABM compliance issues," the official said. Now that the programme has been laid out, it is up to the Compliance Review Group to pass judgement on each of the next tests as they are scheduled, he explained.

The next test will likely occur in October. If the new tests repeat an old test then compliance is not an issue, the official said. "But if it's testing a new capability, a new deployment platform, or something like that, they have to assess those capabilities," he said. In evaluating each future test, the Review Group must look at technical and policy issues associated with it as well as the legal ramifications, he added.

"We will comply with the law. The Treaty stands," the official said. When a test bumps up against the ABM Treaty "we will tell the system when that spot is reached," he said, and then policy guidance will be provided to the programme managers; "we'll be told what to do."

During the budget hearing, Rumsfeld was asked to justify his fiscal year 2002 request for $8.3 billion ($8,300 million) on missile defence, which is about a 60 percent increase over last year after inflation is taken into account. He reminded committee members that the United States already has been targeted by a ballistic missile in February 1991. Twenty-eight Army Reservists were killed and another 99 injured after an Iraqi Scud missile was launched against a dormitory in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm.

The threat is real and growing, the defence secretary told Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis. The Intelligence Community agrees that the total number of ballistic missiles is increasing every year, he added, and so is their destructive power.

While the Pentagon's request for missile defence funds has increased, Rumsfeld emphasised that the money is being sought for research, development and testing. "It is not a deployment budget," he said. He also noted that missile defence spending currently represents less than 2.5 percent of the total US defence budget and "the non-theatre ballistic missile proportion of it is about 1.5 percent of the defence budget." The administration has asked for $328.9 billion ($328,900 million) in fiscal year 2002 money for defense.

By Jacquelyn S. Porth Washington File Security Affairs Writer

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