Rumsfeld Unsure of Ability To Intercept Korean Missiles

From News Services
Monday, August 28, 2006

FORT GREELY, Alaska, Aug. 27 -- After his first look inside the nerve center of the U.S. missile defense system, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Sunday sounded a note of caution about expectations that interceptors poised in 10 underground silos here would work in the event of a missile attack by North Korea.

Asked at a news conference whether he believed the missile shield was ready for use against a North Korean missile like the one test-fired unsuccessfully on July 4, Rumsfeld said he would not be fully convinced until the multibillion-dollar defense system has undergone more complete and realistic testing.

"A full end-to-end" demonstration is needed, Rumsfeld said, "where we actually put all the pieces" of the highly complex and far-flung missile defense system together and see whether it would succeed in destroying a warhead in flight.

Rumsfeld also said North Korea does not pose a military threat to South Korea, calling Pyongyang more of a danger as a distributor of weapons to other countries and perhaps terrorists.

"I think the real threat that North Korea poses in the immediate future is more one of proliferation than a danger to South Korea," he said.

Rumsfeld said it is clear that the overall condition of the North Korean military has deteriorated.

Later Sunday, Rumsfeld met with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Ivanov. They discussed the Middle East and Afghanistan, as well as Russian concerns about an announced U.S. plan to remove nuclear warheads from some Trident long-range missiles aboard submarines and replace them with conventional warheads for potential use on short notice against terrorist targets.

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company