Daniel Inouye, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, is seeking funds for a missile defense project in Hawaii. He wants $68.5 million from last year’s budget to build an Aegis Ashore test facility, bypassing the defense authorizers. (Source)
One of the defense authorizers, Senator John McCain, tried to block Inouye’s request by introducing an amendment that would require formal approval. We’ve blogged about reports that North Korea possess a long-range missile capable of reaching Hawaii. The U.S. has been testing the Theater High-Altitude Area Defenses in Hawaii in preparation for a Taepodong-2 attack. The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) seeks to use funds that were intended for missile defense shields in Poland and the Czech Republic for the project in Hawaii.
“[MDA Lt. Gen. Patrick] O’Reilly called the establishment of the Aegis Ashore facility in Hawaii a ‘priority.’ The test facility could also provide an operational ballistic missile defense capability when needed, O’Reilly argued. The test launcher could provide continuous protection for the region, he added…Japanese intelligence officials have warned that North Korea could launch a long-range ballistic missile toward the Hawaiian islands, which are roughly 4,500 miles away, but U.S. intelligence analysts do not believe that North Korea has the ability to hit Hawaii.”
Russia is escalating its hostility against the U.S. for planned missile defense bases in Poland and the Czech Republic.
According to the Associated Press, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has threatened possible military action against the U.S. for deploying a missile defense system close to his country’s borders: “We will have to react somehow, to react, of course, in a military way.”
What do the two presidential candidates have to say about missile defense?
“An Obama administration will support missile defense, but ensure that it is developed in a way that is pragmatic and cost-effective; and, most importantly, does not divert resources from other national security priorities until we are positive the technology will protect the American public.”
“I welcome the announcement that the United States and Poland have agreed on a missile defense plan for Europe. As I noted during my meeting last month with Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski, this constitutes an important step forward in protecting European nations from a growing threat — missile attacks from states like Iran. While I have welcomed U.S. offers to work with Russia on this system and share in its benefits, I was disappointed in Russia’s reaction to the announcement. Threatening attacks against Poland, a NATO ally, is a wholly inappropriate response to an agreement that is not aimed at countering Russia.”
Just one day after U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signed an agreement with the Czech Republic to build a missile shield in Europe, Iran demonstrated that it fully intends to move forward with its missile program. The country test-fired nine long- and medium-range missiles today that could reach Israel, Turkey, the Arabian peninsula, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
According to a report from the Associated Press, Iran engaged in the war games in response to supposed U.S. and Israeli threats. “Our hands are always on the trigger and our missiles are ready for launch,” said Gen. Hossein Salami, air force commander of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards.
The exercise took place near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, where about 40% of the world’s oil passes through, according to the AP.
“Iran’s missile tests also demonstrate the need for effective missile defense now and in the future, and this includes missile defense in Europe as is planned with the Czech Republic and Poland,” McCain said. “Working with our European and regional allies is the best way to meet the threat posed by Iran, not unilateral concessions that undermine multilateral diplomacy.”
Obama said: “There’s no doubt we’re seeing rising tensions in the area, and it’s part of the reason why it’s so important for us to have a coherent policy with respect to Iran. It has to combine much tougher threats of economic sanctions with direct diplomacy, opening up channels of communication so that we avoid provocation but we give strong incentives for the Iranians to change their behavior.”
During today’s signing ceremony in Prague, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was asked about the role of presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama on the future of missile defense. While she declined to wade into presidential politics, Rice made clear that both candidates should maintain the path developed by the Bush administration.
“Here is the case for missile defense – and by the way, it is already a system that is paying some benefit. I think it is known that at the time of the North Korean missile test, we were able to use certain initial operating capabilities to protect ourselves, had the North Korean missile test resulted in a threat to the United States. It’s hard for me to believe that that’s not a capability that an American president is going to want. We were able to use some of the capabilities when we were all threatened by a satellite that was tumbling to earth with hazardous materials. It is hard for me to believe that that is a capability an American president is not going to want to have.
“But most importantly, we face with the Iranians – and so do our allies and friends, a growing missile threat that is getting ever longer and ever deeper, and where the Iranian appetite for nuclear technology as – to this point is still unchecked. And it’s hard for me to believe that an American president is not going to want to have the capability to defend our territory, the territory of our allies, whether they are in Europe or whether they are in the Middle East, against that kind of missile threat.”
Rice’s optimistic outlook doesn’t necessarily match the views of at least one candidate. Last fall Obama made hostile remarks about missile defense in a video for Caucus4Priorities. “I will cut tens of billions of dollars in wasteful spending. I will cut investments in unproven missile defense systems. I will not weaponize space. I will slow our development of future combat system.”
Since then, Obama has not addressed the issue. Even during a visit with the Democrat last week, Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski said he avoided talking about missile defense with Obama because he didn’t want their first meeting to include a controversial matter.
McCain spells out his support for missile defense on his campaign website. In his meeting with Sikorski, McCain signaled that he would continue the Bush administration’s missile defense goals.