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Kwajalein Missile Tests Endanger Arms Control


20 January 2000


International arms control treaties are under threat, as the United States tests anti-ballistic missiles at Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

On 18 January, the US military tested its National Missile Defence system in the central Pacific. A missile fired from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California released a mock nuclear warhead over the Pacific Ocean. Another missile launched from Kwajalein Atoll attempted - and failed - to shoot the warhead from the sky. A similar test was conducted in October 1999, when a missile fired from Kwajalein hit its target. The tests are part of a US effort to develop a new Star Wars system. A third test will be held in April, before the US government makes a decision in June 2000 on whether to deploy the weapons system.

"The creation of a US National Missile Defence system will breach international arms control treaties, such as the 1967 Outer Space Treaty and the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty," states Nic Maclellan of the Pacific Concerns Resource Centre (PCRC) in Suva, Fiji. "Last November, the United Nations General Assembly voted to protect the ABM Treaty, describing it as 'the cornerstone for maintaining international peace and security'. These missile tests, following the US Senate's refusal to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, are a slap in the face to international disarmament efforts."

"The anti-ballistic missile tests at Kwajalein Atoll are costing hundreds of millions of dollars. At the same time, the Marshall Islands government is calling on the United States to pay extra compensation for the Marshall islanders who were irradiated by US nuclear tests at Bikini and Enewetak atolls in the 1940s and 1950s," Maclellan added.

"France, Britain and the United States used the vast space of the Pacific for nuclear weapons tests between 1946 and 1996. Now the Kwajalein missile tests are drawing the Pacific region into a new arms race. President Clinton will decide in June whether to deploy this new anti-ballistic missile system to protect against missile attacks. But the solution to international insecurity is the abolition of nuclear weapons, not the development of new weapons of mass destruction. The Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific movement calls for an end to missile tests taking place at Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands."

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