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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 21, December 1997

CIA Reaffirms Missile Threat Assessment

Replying to questions put to it by the Senate Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been defending the controversial conclusion of a 1995 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE 95-19) that over the next 15 years no potentially hostile State is likely to acquire ballistic missiles capable of hitting US territory. In written testimony, first submitted to the Committee in June and obtained in advance of publication by the press, the CIA - one of the main contributors to the Estimate - insists:

"Based on its ongoing analysis of missile related activity over the past year, CIA continues to stand by the judgments and conclusions contained in NIE 95-19... We remain confident...that any deployment by such [hostile] countries of long-range ballistic missiles capable of targeting the 48 contiguous States will not be within the next 15 years..." The Agency also agreed with the NIE that "North Korea might develop a missile capable of striking Hawaii and Alaska sometime within the next 15 years." However, without giving details, the Agency also saw some grounds for optimism in this regard, noting that the development programme for the missile in question, the Taepo Dong II, is experiencing difficulties:

"Most agencies believe the Taepo Dong II program will move more slowly than we projected earlier, and there are some concrete reasons for this change..."

Editor's note: the CIA's responses to the Committee also included an assessment of the safety and security of Russian nuclear weapons, materials and facilities. According to this assessment, the US "intelligence community remains very concerned...because of continuing social and economic difficulties, corruption in the military and [the] potential activities of organized crime groups."

On 4 December, the CIA assessment was dismissed by a spokesperson for Russia's Defence Ministry, who stated sweepingly to reporters: "I can tell you outright there is no danger... It is impossible both technically and theoretically. ... We provide enough security, including specialized measures... These sites are controlled more strongly than anything else."

Reports: CIA 'very concerned' by Russian nuclear safeguards, Reuters, 5 December; Russia says nuclear weapons safe, but not others, Reuters, 5 December; CIA stands by judgment that missile threat is 15 years off, Defense Daily, 8 December.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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