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Western Senators Want To Keep ICBMs

File photo of a Minuteman III missile (test) streaking through the night.

Washington (AFP) Nov 08, 2005
Senators and congressmen from western states are seeking to prevent changes or cuts to the U.S. force of deployed nuclear-armed ICBMs. Currently, 500 Minuteman III missiles are dispersed across Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming.

The legislators are worried that the Department of Defense's upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) might recommend cutting some ICBMs or converting some of them to carry conventional warheads, Arms Control Today reported in its November edition.

The controversy could lead to a clash between the Bush administration and some of its most powerful Republican supporters on Capitol Hill.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, backed by President George W. Bush, remains determined to streamline the U.S. domestic military deployment, including nuclear deployments, away from their huge Cold War configuration and make them more suitable to the war on terror currently being waged.

However, key senators have endorsed legislation reaffirming support for the existing ICBM force, and a trio of House Republicans has offered a bill with a similar purpose, ACT said.

In the Senate, Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, R-Va., and ranking member Carl Levin, D-Mich., have agreed to include as part of the pending defense authorization bill a statement that it is U.S. policy to continue deploying 500 ICBMs unless international developments warrant a change. This language, if adopted, would not be legally binding, ACT said.

Reps. Dennis Rehberg, R-Mont., Barbara Cubin, R-Wyo., and Rob Bishop, R-Utah, introduced a bill Oct. 7 declaring, "It is the policy of the United States to maintain a land-based intercontinental ballistic missile force of 500 Minuteman III missiles." It has been referred to the House Armed Services Committee, and it is uncertain when the committee might consider the proposal, ACT said.

In a Sept. 21 letter to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the 10 senators from Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming urged against cutting back on the ICBM force because it "represents a nearly insurmountable hedge against strategic surprise."

related report
Russians test fire Topol-M Moscow (AFP) Nov 09 - The Russian Strategic Rocket Forces last week carried out another in their current series of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests and said it proved their ability to penetrate America's anti-ballistic missile defense system as currently deployed.

The Nov. 1 test was of Russia's new Topol-M ICBM. The 6,000-mile range missile has unique capabilities, making it virtually invulnerable, Russia's leading television broadcaster, Channel 1, said Wednesday.

The pro-Kremlin newspaper Trud said the American anti-missile defense umbrella was no longer a problem for Russia because the test-launch demonstrated that the newest warhead could overcome it.

The Topol-M was test-fired from a ground-based launcher and hit a target in a testing ground in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan in Central Asia, the Russia Defense Ministry reported.

The Moscow newspaper Kommersant said the Russian military claimed that "maneuvers" by the warhead during the final stretch of its trajectory would prevent missile defense systems from intercepting and destroying the incoming missile. This would, therefore, be Moscow's "asymmetrical" response to the U.S. missile defense system, it said.

Deployment of the new warheads would begin next year, Strategic Missile Forces commander Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov announced last month.

Cybercast News Service correspondent Sergei Blagov, in analyzing the launch, noted that the test followed the test-firing of a Bulava missile from a nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine. The Bulava is a modified, sea-based version of the land based Topol-M, he said.

"If successful, Topol-Bulava missiles would be the first intercontinental weapon system Moscow has created since it withdrew from the SALT-2 treaty with the U.S. in response to the American missile defense plans," Blagov wrote.

In fact the ground-based anti-ballistic missile interceptor system currently being deployed in Alaska and California is not designed to protect the United States against any attack by the formidable Russian Strategic Rocket Forces, which remain, along with the U.S. strategic arsenal, the most formidable nuclear force on the planet. The system is only designed to protect against a few missiles launched by so-called "rogue" states such as North Korea or Iran.

"Russia has looked at equipping its new Topol missile with multiple warheads, an option that would reduce the weapon's vulnerability to the U.S. missile defense system, which is designed to attack one warhead at a time," Blagov wrote.

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N.Korea Accuses Bush Of Putting Six-Party Talks In Jeopardy
Seoul (AFP) Nov 08, 2005
Stalinist North Korea accused US President George W. Bush on Tuesday of putting six-party nuclear disarmament talks in jeopardy by slandering its leader.

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