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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 32, November 1998

Missile Defence Developments

On 17 November, the US Department of Defense's (DoD) Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) published a 'notice of intent' in the Federal Register, announcing plans, in the words of a DoD press release, to "conduct an environmental impact analysis of candidate locations for elements of a potential National Missile Defense (NMD) system." Public meetings to discuss environmental considerations will be held following the release of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) in 1999. A Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) will then be issued in 2000, followed by a Record of Decision (ROD) "to announce the NMD basing locations for consideration during the NMD deployment decision process." The press release went on to place the development in the perspective of the Clinton Administration's overall NMD strategy:

"No decision has been made to deploy a NMD system. The first opportunity to consider the need for deployment will occur in 2000, based upon technical readiness of the NMD system together with the intelligence analysis of the potential of an emerging threat to the United states from a limited strategic ballistic missile attack from a rogue nation. If it is determined a threat exists, an initial NMD system can be deployed by 2003. ...

"The NMD system now in development and testing will consist of several different elements: ground-based interceptors (GBI), battle management, command and control (BMC2), In-Flight Interceptor Communications System (IFICS), X-Band Radars, Upgraded Early Warning Radars (UEWR) at existing radar sites, and Defense Support System satellites and later, Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) satellites for early warning launch detection. All elements of the NMD system will work together to protect all 50 States from a limited ballistic missile attack by a rogue nation."

Editor's note: a list of candidate locations is provided in the press release, available at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Nov1998/b11171998_bt597-98.html

On 6 November, Japan announced plans to place four satellites in order by 2002 to detect the launch of ballistic missiles. The move - described as providing resources "needed for crisis management" by Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka - follows the launch of a multi-stage rocket by North Korea on 31 August. North Korea claims that the rocket was carrying a satellite and should not be misconstrued as a ballistic missile test flight. On 30 October, declassified sections of a report into the launch by the Japanese Defense agency (JDA) were released, concluding that the "primary objective was to verify various technological aspects with an intention to develop longer-range missiles."

As regularly reported in Disarmament Diplomacy, Japan and the United States are cooperating closely on ballistic missile defence (BMD) issues. On 5 November, the state of these cooperative efforts was detailed by Rear Admiral Rodney Rempt, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Theater Combat Systems, in an interview with Defense Daily. Rempt explained:

"Japan has various strategies they're trying to sort through, but a key component is putting their Theater Wide, or Upper Tier, system aboard their ships... We're very hopeful we'll join a cooperative development with Japan to provide a Theater Wide capability for US and Japanese ships... We're not yet in formal Memorandum of Understanding negotiations. We're in initial discussions. But there's a desire by Japan to have something approved by April or May next year... We're thrilled they're thinking of having part of their system shipboard."

In Jerusalem on 31 October, Israel and the United States signed a Memorandum of Agreement on, as explained by a joint statement issued by the two leaders the same day,s "the potential threat to Israel posed by the proliferation of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction in the region." The joint statement continued:

"This subject has been of great concern to both Governments for some time, and the Memorandum of Agreement establishes a new mechanism for enhancing their cooperation in dealing with this potential threat. Pursuant to the Memorandum of Agreement, a joint strategic planning committee will be established to formulate recommendations on upgrading the framework of US-Israeli strategic and military relationships, as well as technological cooperation."

Under the terms of the Memorandum itself, the "United States would view with particular gravity direct threats to Israel's security arising from the regional deployment of ballistic missiles of intermediate range or greater. In the event of such a threat, the United States Government would consult promptly with the Government of Israel with respect to what support, diplomatic or otherwise, or assistance, it can lend to Israel."

The Agreement was signed by Prime Minister Netanyahu and US Ambassador Edward Walker; a copy was also signed by President Clinton in Washington. According to Netanyahu (31 October), the development meant that "[w]e are raising the strategic relations between Israel and the United States by a notch."

Reports: Text - Clinton, Netanyahu joint statement on potential threat to Israel, United States Information Service, 5 November; US, Israel agree on protection plan, Associated Press, 31 October; US pledges to help Israel against threats, Reuters, 1 November; Japan, US discuss formalizing missile defense effort, Defense Daily, 5 November; Japan Oks launch of spy satellites, Associated Press, 6 November; Japan: 'N. Korea's August launch was missile test,' Jane's Defence Weekly, 11 November; BMDO Notice of Intent published, US Department of Defense Press Release 597-98, 17 November.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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