Friday, September 24, 2004

Second Front Watch

U.S. destroyers deploying off N. Korea (Hat tip: Infinite911911)

ABOARD THE USS CORONADO — In the first step toward erecting a multibillion-dollar shield to protect the United States from foreign missiles, the U.S. Navy will begin deploying state-of-the-art destroyers to patrol the waters off North Korea as early as next week.

The mission, to be conducted in the Sea of Japan by ships assigned to the Navy’s 7th fleet, will help lay the foundation for a system to detect and intercept ballistic missiles launched by “rogue nations.”

Washington hopes to complete the network over the next several years.

“We are on track,” Vice Admiral Jonathan Greenert, commander of the 7th Fleet, told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday aboard the USS Coronado, which is based just south of Tokyo. “We will be ready to conduct the mission when assigned.”

‘Highest priority’

The deployment will be the first in a controversial program that is high on President Bush’s defense agenda. Bush cleared the way to build the system two years ago by withdrawing from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which banned ship-based missile defenses.

He said protecting America from ballistic missiles was “my highest priority as commander in chief, and the highest priority of my administration.”

The project — likened to hitting a bullet with a bullet, only at three times the speed — is exceedingly complex, prompting many critics to argue that it will never be reliable or effective. It is also expensive, with an estimated price tag of $51 billion over the next five years.

Even so, the missile threat is hard to deny.

More than 30 nations have ballistic missiles, according to the U.S. Defense Department’s Missile Defense Agency. Though exact times depend on where the launch occurs, missiles could in less than 30 minutes reach virtually anywhere within the United States.


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