State Dept. on Ballistic Missile Threat
(Source : US State Department ; issued Sept. 7, 2001)
 The potential threat of weapons of mass destruction delivered by ballistic or cruise missiles poses one of the most direct and serious threats to the U.S. national security, its armed forces abroad, friends and allies, according to a new fact sheet from the U.S. Department of State. Following is a fact sheet on the ballistic missile threat prepared by the State Department's Bureau of Arms Control.

Fact Sheet :The Emerging Ballistic Missile Threat

One of the most direct and serious threats to U.S. national security, and the security of its friends and allies, is the potential use or threat of use of nuclear, biological, or chemical (NBC) weapons delivered by ballistic or cruise missiles. Nonproliferation, counter-proliferation, diplomacy, deterrence, and defense, including missile defense, are all part of a national security strategy to address these threats.

The Ballistic Missile Threat Today

The ballistic missile danger to the United States, its forces deployed abroad, and allies and friends are real and growing. For example:

-- In August 1998, North Korea launched the three-stage Taepo Dong 1 in an unsuccessful attempt to place a satellite into orbit. The intelligence community assesses that this launch demonstrated the capability of the Taepo Dong I to deliver a small payload to the United States. North Korea is also developing a new, more capable ICBM -- the Taepo Dong 2 -which could be tested at any time.

-- In July 1998, July 2000, and again in September 2000, Iran flight-tested the 1,300 kilometer-range Shahab 3 missile -- a version of North Korea's No Dong medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) produced with assistance from Russian entities, which can reach, for example, such countries as Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Russia. Iran has made statements that it plans to develop longer-range systems known as the Shahab 4 and Shahab 5.

Such events confirm publicly available U.S. intelligence estimates that during the next 15 years, new intercontinental ballistic missile threats will most likely emerge from North Korea, probably from Iran, and possibly from Iraq. Iranian and Libyan programs are also a threat to our European and Middle East friends and allies.

Addressing America's allies, President Bush has said that we must prepare our nations against the dangers of a new era." America's international presence and leadership make the United States and its allies targets of choice for adversaries who may be tempted to resort to non-conventional means, such as using nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons (NBC) delivered by ballistic missiles, to coerce us, our allies, and friends. In fact, ballistic missile threats to our allies could materialize even sooner than those confronting the United States itself.

While non-missile delivery means can also be used to conduct WMD attacks -- and the United States devotes approximately $10 billion [$10,000 million] per year to address these types of potential threats -- that in no way lessens the need to develop and deploy defensive systems capable of countering ballistic missile attacks.

Potential adversaries may hope that the acquisition of NBC weapons and delivery systems such as long-range ballistic missiles would deter the United States from intervening in, or leading coalitions against, their efforts at regional aggression, or these states may believe that such capabilities would give them the ability to threaten allied countries in order to dissuade them from joining such coalitions.

The leaders of such states are potentially more unpredictable and prone to taking risks. They see NBC weapons and ballistic missile capabilities as tools of coercion, terror, blackmail, and aggression.

An increasing number of nations have ballistic missiles.

-- At least 27 countries now possess -- or are in the process of acquiring and developing ballistic missiles.

-- More than a dozen states, including several hostile to the United States, our allies and friends, are pursuing offensive biological and chemical warfare capabilities.

Some of the regimes controlling these missiles have already exhibited a willingness to employ NBC weapons. For example, Iraq and Iran have used ballistic missiles to launch chemical weapons (CW) against each other and Iraq has used CW against its own population. In addition, Iran has a nuclear program, North Korea may have enough plutonium for at least one nuclear weapon, and Iraq was on the verge of building a nuclear weapon on the eve of the Gulf War.

The Role of Foreign Assistance in Missile Technology Transfers

Foreign assistance continues to have demonstrable effects on missile advances around the world, creating further unpredictability in the development of the ballistic missile threat.

-- Missile assistance by Russian and Chinese entities continues to be significant.

-- North Korea has been a major proliferator of ballistic missile technologies to other countries.

-- Moreover, some previous recipients of assistance are now sharing these missile technologies with other states.

Proliferators are developing long-range ballistic missiles, often under the guise of peaceful space-launch programs.

The length of time required to develop a ballistic missile defense system means that the United States, in consultation with its friends and allies, must make appropriate preparations now if it is to be in a position to respond to such threats as they arise in the future. (ends)
Fact Sheet: State Dept. on Missile Defense and Deterrence
   The following fact sheet was prepared by the Arms Control Bureau of the U.S. Department of State. It cites emerging threats and a need to diversify the U.S. approach to deterrence, and touches upon U.S. missile defense and Russia and China.
     Fact Sheet : Missile Defense and Deterrence
     Deterrence must and will remain a critical component of our security posture. Yet, many of the conditions and assumptions that long guided the way we thought about deterrence and its supporting strategic force posture have changed fundamentally. Deterrence can involve more than just the threat to retaliate in the event of an attack. It can also be based on the ability to prevent potential adversaries from achieving their objectives thereby deterring them from pursuing such objectives in the first place. The United States is developing a forward-looking strategy that takes into account the changing nature of the threats we face, as well as the full range of capabilities that we can marshal to protect our nation and its vital interests, as well as meet our commitments to friends and allies.
     Deterrence Is Our Highest Priority
     Maintaining a reliable deterrent against attacks on the United States and our allies is a critical objective of our national security strategy. Our nation always prefers peaceful means to maintain its own security and prosperity, and that of its friends and allies, but maintains the military capabilities needed to deter and defend against the threat or potential use of force by prospective adversaries.
     Our deterrence strategy to date has largely relied on our ability to respond to attack with a variety of options, ranging from a devastating retaliation through more selective strikes, and our offensive nuclear forces are and will remain a key component of that capability. No group or nation should doubt that the United States will continue to depend on the certainty of a devastating response to any attack on the United States or its allies to deter attacks by ballistic missiles or other weapons.
     Emerging Threats and the Need to Diversify our Approach to Deterrence
     However, given the new threats we all face -- especially from weapons of mass destruction and increasingly sophisticated ballistic missiles in the hands of rogue states -- our deterrence posture can no longer rely exclusively on the threat of retaliation. We now need a strategy based on an appropriate mix of offensive and defensive capabilities to deny potential adversaries the opportunities and benefits they might hope to realize from the threat or use of weapons of mass destruction against our homeland and forces deployed abroad, as well as those of our allies and friends.
     Today, we are confronted with a more diverse, less predictable, and less risk-averse group of hostile states that are aggressively seeking to develop or acquire weapons of mass destruction and longer-range missiles as a means of their delivery. They see such weapons both as operational weapons of war and as coercive tools of diplomacy to preclude us and our partners from assisting friends and allies in regions of vital interest. For such threats, deterrence must take advantage of the contribution of both offensive and defensive forces, working together.
     Ballistic missile defenses enhance the traditional deterrence of offensive capabilities by denying rogue states the ability to reliably and predictably inflict mass destruction on other nations. By complicating his calculation of success, these defenses add to a potential aggressor's uncertainty and weaken his confidence. Effective missile defenses may also serve to undercut the value potential aggressor's place on missiles as a means of delivery, thereby advancing our non-proliferation goals. With these considerations in mind, missile defenses can be a force for stability and security.
     Moreover, some potential threats, such as accidental or unauthorized launches of ballistic missiles, cannot be deterred by their very nature. They can only be defended against. To counter such contingencies, missile defenses provide an element of insurance that supplements and enhances their deterrent value.
     A New Relationship with Russia
     We are committed to creating a new strategic and diplomatic relationship with Russia; one founded not on common vulnerabilities, but on common interests and shared objectives. As Secretary of State Colin L. Powell has said: it is time to change the nuclear equation of mutual assured destruction to a more sensible strategic arrangement." While we seek to persuade Russia to join us in further reducing our nuclear arsenals, we are also prepared to lead by example. Therefore, we are committed to ensuring that this new strategic framework with Russia is characterized by efforts to achieve the lowest levels of nuclear weapons consistent with our present and future national security needs. Our missile defenses will not threaten Russia's deterrent forces.
     Missile Defense and China
     Our missile defenses will be designed to deter and defend against small-scale attacks from rogue states, as well as from accidental or unauthorized attacks from any source. As a force for stability and security in both the Asian region and the world at large, defense and deterrence working together advance goals of regional peace and stability which we share with China. Missile defense is not intended as a threat to China's deterrent forces.
     Finally, it is worth emphasizing that missile defenses are only one tool among many in maintaining peace, security, and stability, and must be considered within the context of our entire strategic framework. This framework includes offensive nuclear arms as well as our broader diplomatic and security activities, including arms control and nonproliferation efforts. This diversified approach to deterrence is appropriate for the complex and less predictable world in which we live.

prev next

Official reports See all