DATE=2/15/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=MISSILE DEFENSE (L) NUMBER=2-259191 BYLINE=NICK SIMEONE DATELINE=WASHINGTON CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: A senior US defense official is warning a decision whether to deploy a national missile defense system should not be rushed. Correspondent Nick Simeone reports the Pentagon may need to conduct more tests before a recommendation can be made to President Clinton by June. TEXT: Defense Secretary William Cohen is expected to recommend whether a nationwide, space-based shield capable of protecting Americans from long-range missile attacks can be built. But his top deputy overseeing tests on the system warns the June deadline for a decision is putting unrealistic pressure on the project. Even Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Hugh Shelton thinks the timetable may be rushing the project. But he says development of such a system needs to go ahead because of the threat posed by a missile attack. That threat increased in 1998 when North Korea stunned the world by test firing a missile over Japan -- fueling fears the United States and its allies might be vulnerable to missile attacks by rogue nations. The US missile defense system has suffered some set backs - including the failure of a test just last month. In theory, the satellite-guided system could protect the United States by sending a missile to intercept an incoming warhead before it reaches its target. But the technology has yet to prove reliable. Tom Collina of the Union of Concerned Scientists is a leading critic of the missile defense shield. He doesn't think the system will ultimately prove worthy of its multi-billion dollar price tag. /// COLLINA ACT /// The technology will not be mature by this summer when we have the Clinton Administration decision and certainly deploying a system that we don't know whether it works is not worth the political and financial downsides. /// END ACT /// Those downsides extend to U-S relations with other major world powers. Deploying the missile system would require amending the anti-ballistic missile treaty with Russia, something Moscow is against. China opposes the missile shield as well and is advocating a global treaty that would ban the use of weapons systems in space. (SIGNED) NEB/NJS/JO 15-Feb-2000 16:34 PM EDT (15-Feb-2000 2134 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .