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."
General 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.
The 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 Russia's concerns.
"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.
Last 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.
He 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 kilometers.
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.