(Wants to develop theater anti-missile defenses)  (670)
By Paul Malamud
USIA Staff Writer
Washington -- The United States is seeking clarifications of the 1972 ABM
(Anti-ballistic Missile) Treaty to allow for the development of modern
theater anti-missile defense systems, says the director of the U.S. Arms
Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA).

John D. Holum told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee March 10 that
nations such as North Korea and Iran are developing missiles with warheads
1hat could threaten U.S. allies around the world -- as well as
forward-deployed U.S. troops.

While the ABM Treaty limits strategic anti-ballistic missile defenses, he
noted, negotiations between the United States and successor states to the
former Soviet Union are currently being held in an effort to clarify the
distinction between these systems and a new generation of theater
anti-missile defenses not prohibited by the treaty.

Theater anti-missile defenses, he stressed, will be necessary to safeguard
U.S. troops in future situations -- resembling the Gulf War scenario, for
instance -- where developing nations might possess missiles with various
kinds of warheads.

In his prepared testimony, Holum praised the ABM Treaty, noting that by
"strictly limiting nationwide defenses against strategic ballistic
missiles, it has prevented the kind of escalating race between offense and
defense that has long characterized military technology in other fields."
He called the treaty "the bedrock of strategic arms control," adding that
it remains "crucial to stability."

Holum pointed out that the Clinton administration, to protect the ABM
Treaty, has agreed to a "narrow" interpretation of the accord -- conceding
it prohibits "the development, testing and deployment of sea-based,
air-based, space-based and mobile land-based ABM systems."

While the danger of U.S.-Russian nuclear conflict has receded, he explained,
"The need to make clear the distinction between ABM systems for countering
strategic ballistic missiles (which are strictly limited by the treaty),
and non-ABM systems (which are not limited), is made timely by the prospect
of third-country missile proliferation and the demonstrated willingness of
backlash states to target not just U.S. expeditionary forces, but to hold
civilian populations hostage by targeting cities."  Thus, he added,
"clarification is unavoidable, given the acknowledged ambiguity of the
treaty as it stands."

"As a staunch supporter of the ABM Treaty," he emphasized, "I am convinced
that it must not come to be viewed as an obstacle to the development of
necessary U.S. tactical defenses."  Holum added that "during the regular
five-year ABM Treaty Review that took place last September and October, we
began to explore these issues with Russia and the other participating
states, Ukraine and Belarus."

Holum asserted that these states "agree with us that the threat of
third-country ballistic missile proliferation is real; that there is a
shared interest in defending against this threat (and) that the treaty must
be clarified to allow for adequate theater missile defenses."

Lieutenant General Malcolm R. O'Neill, director of the U.S. Ballistic
Missile Defense Organization, said he is concerned about "missile programs
in India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and especially North Korea --
all of which have or could develop weapons of mass destruction for use on
their ballistic missiles.  This growing comprehensive threat capability,"
he said, "coupled with...unpredictability...represents a serious threat to
vital United States national interests."

O'Neill warned that in the future such missiles may be "armed with chemical,
biological and nuclear warheads" and will "increase worldwide."

In response to questions, Holum explained that "the dividing line between
ABM systems and theater systems" was not made clear in the 1972 treaty, and
therefore negotiations were needed.

Senator John Kerry urged Holum to "pursue the non-proliferation road far
more aggressively than we are" rather than develop yet another
counterforce.  Panel members also cautioned that they consider the proposed
1clarifications" of the ABM Treaty to be potentially substantial revisions
that may well require Senate ratification.