DATE=10/3/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=COHEN MISSILE DEFENSE (L-ONLY) NUMBER=2-254609 BYLINE=JIM RANDLE DATELINE=ELMENDORF AIR FORCE BASE, ALASKA INTERNET=YES CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: The United States successfully fly-tested a key part of a national missile defense system Saturday. Delighted Pentagon officials say the weapon hit so hard, the target missile was reduced to atoms. The test comes as U-S intelligence officials warn there is a growing threat that North Korea and other nations could develop ballistic missiles that could reach America. As V-O-A's Jim Randle reports (from Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska) critics say the system costs too much and won't work. TEXT: The United States has several missile defense systems under study and development. The one tested Saturday is the largest and would cover the entire United States. In its latest test the interceptor hit the target missile more than 200-kilometers above the Pacific at about 24-thousand kilometers per hour. The stunning impact instantly changed the metal missile into a form of energy known as a plasma. Defense Secretary William Cohen says it took powerful radar, sensors, and computers to essentially hit a bullet with a bullet. /// COHEN ACT /// This test certainly is a positive development for us. It is a testament to the kind of technology that we are capable of developing and I think it is an important milestone in this effort to conduct the research development and the testing such as this. /// END ACT /// The one-hundred million dollar test is one of several scheduled before July -- when the president is expected to decide if the complex system will work and if it's worth the billions of dollars it will cost. The system is designed to destroy missiles launched by rogue states or terrorists, not a barrage of warheads from a major nuclear power. Some critics say the Pentagon is not doing enough tests of the complex and expensive system to make a sound decision. Meantime, Moscow complains a proposed national missile defense system would violate the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union. Mr. Cohen says he and other top officials are holding a series of meetings with Russian officials to see if a compromise can be worked out. Mr. Cohen spoke at a news conference in Manila before heading to Alaska on his way back to Washington. (Signed) NEB/jr/ENE-T/gm 03-Oct-1999 16:26 PM EDT (03-Oct-1999 2026 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .