defense capabilities are increasingly important now, as more
countries demonstrate the ability and willingness to develop
ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons, Defense Secretary Donald H.
Rumsfeld said after touring missile assembly and storage facilities
at Fort Greeley, Alaska.
"It's an activity that has been evolving over time and is
important for the protection of the American people," Rumsfeld told
reporters after being briefed about the interceptor missile
activities here. "It is an activity that with each passing month
has become more capable."
The U.S. missile defense system is still limited and needs more
testing, but it is important to have when North Korea and Iran are
demonstrating their desire and capability to have nuclear programs,
and terrorist groups are using rockets to attack civilians,
Rumsfeld said. He said he has been involved in the missile defense
program since its inception and has seen it go through much debate
and change before arriving at its current state.
"I've seen the thing calm down to the point where it's now
national policy, in law, that the United States develop a
capability to defend itself against limited types of threats," he
Rumsfeld specifically talked about the threat coming from North
Korea, saying it wasn't a military threat, but one of
proliferation. North Korea's recent test launch of several missiles
clearly demonstrates the country's determination to develop a
nuclear program, he said, but Pyongyang is probably mostly
interested in selling the missiles to other countries.
"I think the real threat that North Korea poses in the immediate
future is more one of proliferation than a danger to South Korea,"
After touring the missile facilities, Rumsfeld met with Russian
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov in Fairbanks, Alaska. The two
discussed the U.S. missile defense system and how it affects
Russia, as well as regional and security issues. At a news
conference following the meeting, Ivanov noted that the U.S.-Russia
relationship is important to the global security and political
"Irrespective of the issues which we discussed, we always hope
that there will be transparency and predictability, as well as the
mutual respect of our governments' interests," he said through a
At the news conference,
Rumsfeld talked about the U.S. plans to put conventional warheads
on intercontinental missiles for possible use against threats. The
capability would be good for any government to have in the case of
an unforeseen threat from a weapon of mass destruction or terrorist
group, he said, and would be far less destructive than a nuclear
"If either of our countries or our friends and allies were
threatened in the future with a weapon of mass destruction or a
capability that is that lethal, I think any president would like to
have available a conventional weapon that could attack that target
swiftly and accurately and precisely," he said.
Rumsfeld emphasized that whatever was done in this area would be
fully transparent between the U.S. and Russia, and appropriate
communications links would be developed.
After the meeting, Rumsfeld and Ivanov attended a dedication
ceremony for a memorial to U.S.-Soviet military cooperation during
World War II. [ANN Thanks Sgt. Sara Wood, USA, American Forces