DATE=7/9/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=U-S/MISSILE DEFENSE (L-ONLY) NUMBER=2-264234 BYLINE=DAVID GOLLUST DATELINE=WHITE HOUSE CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Key U-S senators are urging President Clinton to let his successor decide whether to build a proposed U-S anti-ballistic missile system. The calls follow the failure Saturday of the latest test of the anti-missile system, which advocates say could protect the United States from missiles fired by countries of concern, like North Korea or Iraq. VOA's David Gollust has more from the White House. TEXT: The latest test of the missile intercept system over the Pacific was a rather abject failure, with the so-called missile "kill vehicle" failing to separate from its booster rocket and thus missing the target warhead. Administration officials say it is too early to say how this will affect the deliberations of President Clinton, who has promised a decision this summer on whether to proceed with the controversial program. Appearing Sunday on the C-B-S television network's "Face the Nation" program, White House National Security Adviser Sandy Berger said the President will balance cost, technical and diplomatic factors in making his choice, and is still awaiting assessments from top advisers. ///Berger act/// I'd rather not prejudge the decision. Obviously this does go to the question of technical feasibility, or how far along the system is. But we need an assessment from the Pentagon, and we need a recommendation of the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, and other of the President's national security advisors and he will look at all of those factors that I mentioned and make a judgement as to whether we should proceed or not. ///end act/// An anti-missile program is popular in Congress, but it is opposed by Russia and China and even some U-S allies, who say it will violate the 1972 Anti- Ballistic Missile Treaty and upset the status-quo of nuclear deterrence. Appearing on the same program, Republican Senator Chuck Hegel said that while he supports missile defense in principle, Mr. Clinton should leave a decision to the President who takes office next January so there can be a more deliberate examination of the issue including its foreign policy implications. ///Hegel act/// I probably was the first United States senator, who strongly supports a national missile defense system, to come out six months ago and suggest that any final decision should be held over until we have a new administration next year. I think the technological piece of this is not yet in place. I think we have some evidence of that over the last 48 hours. The cost obviously is not in place. I don't think we've brought our allies on, and I don't think we're handled that very well. And how we're dealing with the Russians and Chinese on this are important. ///end act/// Mr. Hegel's Democratic Senate colleague Joseph Biden also supports deferral of the issue, though he told C- B-S the threat to the United States from a so called "rogue state" missile attack is questionable - while the nuclear proliferation danger inherent in the system is already clear. ///Biden act/// Right now, you have China with 18 (one-eight) intercontinental ballistic missiles. What do you think happens if we break the A-B-M treaty? They're going to go to 250 to 500 overnight. What pressure is that going to put on Japan to become a nuclear power? The South Korean ambassador told me that he believed that would nuclear-ize North and South Korea. India and Pakistan would move. Are my grand-daughters in a better circumstance in that world than we are with the A-B-M treaty and this alleged vulnerability? ///end act/// Another Democratic Senator, Joseph Lieberman, said Sunday that Mr. Clinton should authorize the start of ground-work for an anti-missile radar complex in the U-S Aleutian Islands near Alaska. But he says the overall decision on whether to build the missile defense system should be deferred to the next President. Some defense experts say the act of preparing the Aleutian site would not violate the 1972 treaty, but it would keep open the possibility that the proposed U-S anti-missile system could be operational by the year-2005 target envisaged by Congress. (Signed) NEB/DAG/KBK 09-Jul-2000 18:19 PM EDT (09-Jul-2000 2219 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .