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NZ Concern Over US Missile Defence Plans

New Zealand regrets United States President Bush's announcement of a firm intention to proceed with missile defence plans, Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff and Disarmament Minister Matt Robson said.

Mr Goff said "I understand a nations desire to protect itself against any form of attack. However the establishment of a missile defence system runs the risk of halting and reversing multilateral progress towards the elimination of nuclear weapons. I registered this concern in Washington in my recent meetings with Colin Powell and Richard Armitage."

Mr Robson had also expressed New Zealand concern to US Ambassador for Disarmament Norman Wulf at the UN Asia-Pacific Regional Disarmament conference held in Wellington recently.

"I made it clear that a missile defence system could hinder efforts by nuclear states to achieve the elimination of nuclear weapons," he said.

Mr Goff added "Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov stated in his meeting with me in Moscow last week that missile defence was inconsistent with the ABM Treaty of 1972, on which Russia believed all other actions towards nuclear disarmament was founded.

"He said if this is unilaterally discarded it follows that the entire structure will collapse, including the non-proliferation regime."

The Ministers said there is a clear risk that other nuclear weapon states will see missile defence as grounds for developing new generation weapons systems in response to it.

"The only real security against nuclear missile attack is the total elimination of nuclear weapons as unequivocally agreed to by the nuclear weapons states at last years Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.

"It is a positive factor that both the US and Russia are talking about major downsizing of their nuclear weapons stockpiles.

"This should continue with ratification of START II by the US and the development of START III talks so that the downsizing provides for verification procedures and create the necessary guarantees and confidence in the process.

"To achieve ongoing progress requires dialogue and multilateral action rather than unilateral initiatives by individual countries," the Ministers said.


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