The head of the U.S. missile defense program says Russia's sharp
rhetoric about the system is not justified, and installations planned
for Europe would not be any threat to Russia or its defenses. VOA's Al
Pessin reports from the Pentagon.
Lieutenant General Henry Obering says it is time for the world to ask Russia to justify its
criticism of the U.S. missile defense program. "When they make
increasingly aggressive statements, it's incumbent upon them to justify
those because there is absolutely no justification, in our eyes, for
some of their statements and some of their concern about these sites."
Obering showed reporters videos of several successful missile intercept
tests, and described progress on the land and sea-based system
designed to intercept medium and long range missiles in the Pacific and
Europe. The United States says the system's European elements are
designed to protect against Iran's growing missile capability. U.S.
intelligence officials say Iran already has missiles that can reach
Israel and the fringes of Europe, which it tested again last week, and
could develop a missile capable of reaching the United States by 2015.
U.S. interceptors destroy incoming missiles by hitting them with a
solid metal projectile. General Obering says that makes them
particularly difficult to turn into offensive weapons - which is one of
"They don't carry explosives. They don't
carry warheads. If we try to turn them into offensive missiles, that
would be imminently evident to even the casual observer. It's not
something we have any intent to do, nor reason to do, frankly," he said.
week, after the United States and the Czech Republic signed an
agreement for an interceptor radar site, Russia's foreign ministry
issued a statement saying if the agreement is ratified Russia would
respond with what it called "military-technological methods." General
Obering said Tuesday he did not know what that would mean.
also repeated U.S. offers not to activate the European missile defense
system until Iran tests a longer range missile, and to have Russian
officials monitor the radar and launch sites. He also disputed Russian
claims that the system's radar would intrude into its airspace, saying
the radar would only see into Russia at very high altitudes, above 250
The launch site for the European part of the
system is planned for Poland. U.S. officials say negotiations with
Poland are nearly complete, but if they fail other countries, such as
Lithuania, could provide an alternate site.