WASHINGTON – House Armed Services Committee
Chairman Duncan Hunter declared Tuesday that North Korea's
unsuccessful launch of a missile that might have been able to reach
the United States proves that President Bush was right in 2001 when
he pulled out of a treaty that barred deployment of a national
missile defense system.
Hunter, R-El Cajon., told a news conference that North Korea's
July 4 test of six short-range or mid-range missiles and its attempt
to launch a long-range Taepodong 2 vindicated Bush's controversial
decision to scrap the U.S.-Soviet Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
“The president should be applauded for adopting a policy of peace
through strength – Unfortunately, we still have a majority of
Democrats in the House who are fighting missile defense,” he said.
Hunter was referring to an unsuccessful attempt on the House
floor to cut $4.7 billion from the nearly $10 billion his committee
had authorized for missile defense.
The Taepodong failed 42 seconds after liftoff, but Bush said the
national defense system had been activated in case it was needed.
Hunter said he would try to add money to the defense
authorization, now in a House-Senate conference, to see if
deployment of the missile defense system can be accelerated.
But arms control advocates noted that the land-based missile
defense system has yet to prove it can intercept an incoming missile
and the money allocated for fielding more interceptors could be used
more effectively for other homeland security efforts. “I think we're
still confronted with a situation, not withstanding the North Korean
launch, that nuclear weapons are far more likely to reach the United
States in a shipping container than in a ballistic missile,” said
P.J. Crawley, a retired Air Force colonel and former National
Security Council spokesman who is now with the Center for American
Progress, a left-of-center think tank.
“The issue is not missile defense or no missile defense,” Crawley
said. “The issue is do we have a system that's been effectively
managed and tested? The answer is no.”
Crawley noted that three of the five latest attempts by the
ground-based defense system to intercept a simulated
intercontinental missile have failed. Other attempts have been
aborted or postponed because of technical problems.
Other analysts have said that even the successful intercepts were
not realistic tests and after 23 years of development and more than
$100 billion in spending the system has never shown it could work.
Currently, nine interceptors are in silos in Alaska and two are
at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Hunter said he would rather have the “limited capability” the
current system provides than be defenseless against North Korea's
Crawley said the July 4 failure shows that North Korea is not a
threat now, but conceded it could be some day.
“The question today is, should we rely on an untested missile
defense system or should we engage North Korea directly and see if
we can eliminate the threat that way? he said.