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Nuclear Disarmament and Nonproliferation US Missile Testing

For Immediate Release: July 20, 2006

Contact: Michael Spies, Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy 212-818-1861
Jackie Cabasso, Western States Legal Foundation (cell) 510-306-0119

Defiant US Fires Long-Range Test Missile
3rd Minuteman III Launch This Year Threatens Global Peace and Security

Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA -- Less than a week after the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution condemning North Korea for test launching several ballistic missiles, the United States launched an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile at 3:14am this morning from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The missile, carrying three dummy warheads, was fired 4,200 miles across the Pacific toward the missile test range at Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, with a flight time of about 30 minutes. The missile launch, originally scheduled for July 19 was delayed for 24 hours due to complications with air traffic control radars in the Southwest region of the U.S.

The test is intended to test the reliability and capability of the missile system. The U.S. currently deploys 500 Minuteman III missiles, kept on high alert and each carrying a single nuclear warhead with a yield, depending on the configuration, of 170 kilotons or 335 kilotons, respectively 10 or 20 times more powerful than the U.S. atomic bomb that devastated Hiroshima nearly 61 years ago, on August 6, 1945.

This test is the latest in an ongoing series of regularly scheduled ballistic missile tests conducted by the U.S. military. In the period between January 2000 and the present, the U.S. has conducted at least 48 tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and submarine launched ballistic missiles, including some 23 Minuteman III ICBMs, launched from Vandenberg. The last test of a Minuteman III occurred on June 14.

According to Lt. Col. S.L. Davis, 576th Flight Test Squadron commander, the mission director for this launch: “This mission continues a long string of successful ICBM flight tests from Vandenberg,” Colonel Davis added: “It clearly demonstrates the capability of both the Minuteman III weapon system and those who maintain and operate it…” The Vandenberg news release announcing the launch also mentioned: “The reliability and accuracy data will also be used by United States Strategic Command planners.”

Colonel Davis, in a June 14 News Release issued by the 30th Space Wing: “While ICBM launches from Vandenberg almost seem routine, each one requires a tremendous amount of effort and absolute attention to detail in order to accurately assess the current performance and capability of the Nation’s fielded ICBM force that is always on-alert in Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska. This specific test will provide key accuracy and reliability data for on-going and future modifications to the weapon system, which are key to improving the already impressive effectiveness of the Minuteman III force.” (Emphasis supplied.)

In a June 22 op-ed in the Washington Post, William Perry, President Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Defense, and Ashton Carter, his assistant Secretary of Defense, called upon the Bush administration, “if necessary,” to strike and destroy North Korea’s Taepodong missile before it could be launched - even at risk of igniting a war.

According to Michael Spies, Program Associate with the Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy in New York City: “The ongoing conduct of these tests represents yet another example of U.S. exceptionalism; the U.S. feels no embarrassment in criticizing others for the same activities it or its allies engage in.” Spies added: “The recent UN Security Council resolution condemning the North Korean tests also exemplifies the one-sided approach to international security, pursued by all the major powers and imposed on the world through their disproportionate influence over inter-governmental bodies. The North Korea resolution reaffirms that the ‘proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, as well as their means of delivery, constitutes a threat to international peace and security.’ However, the resolution is silent on the threat to others posed by the continued possession, reliance, improvement and testing of such weapons and their related delivery systems by the permanent members of the Security Council, and the 35 other states that have acquired or developed ballistic missile capabilities.”

Jacqueline Cabasso, Executive Director of the Oakland, California Western States Legal Foundation concluded: “These tests are yet more evidence of blatant nuclear hypocrisy by the United States, yet the silence in response has been deafening. Following the international chorus of condemnation of the North Korean missile tests, partially led by the U.S., today’s Minuteman III launch demonstrates the height of hubris. North Korea was labeled by the Bush administration as part of the ‘axis of evil,’ it appeared on the U.S. nuclear target list revealed in the Nuclear Posture Review, and it has been threatened with preemptive strikes by both the Clinton and Bush administrations. The U.S. maintains a nuclear arsenal of over 10,000 warheads and is upgrading its delivery systems in pursuit of a ‘prompt global strike’ capability. Who’s threatening whom? As recognized by the Blix Commission on Weapons of Mass Destruction, it’s high time for the world’s first nuclear state to implement its long-past-due obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to start negotiations on the global elimination of nuclear weapons.”

For more information: http://disarmamentactivist.org/2006/07/18/us_missile_test/


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