July 12, 1999

July 12, 1999 | Backgrounder on Missile Defense

What Foreign Leaders Are Saying About Missile Defense

In May 1999, a bipartisan majority of Congress voted to make it the policy of the United States to deploy a national missile defense as soon as technologically possible. This important milestone is good news for Americans as well as for U.S. friends and allies overseas.

It is bad news, however, for America's adversaries. Many countries hostile to U.S. security interests have been spending a great deal of their time and resources on developing ballistic missiles to threaten the United States and its allies. An effective missile defense would render useless both these missiles and the lethal warheads they could carry.

In an attempt to prevent this from happening, some foreign leaders are continuing their long-standing rhetorical battle against missile defenses. They assert, for example, that there is no missile threat; that missile defenses will be destabilizing; that missile defenses violate international law; and that missile defenses will damage arms control efforts. These arguments, even though thoroughly discredited, are effective in inflaming anti-U.S. sentiments in foreign countries and in masking the true intentions of the leaders of those countries to develop and deploy weapons capable of countering the United States and its allies.

The following quotations are taken from officials of foreign governments or from government-controlled media outlets. Americans who may be unsure about missile defense should note which foreign governments are opposing it so vehemently. They also should note the striking similarity between some of the arguments made by these governments and the arguments made by some U.S. opponents of missile defense.

IRIB Television First Program Network in Persian, Tehran:

[The] U.S. missile project called NMD [National Missile Defense] is dangerous for the world.1

Unnamed Spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, Iran:

Whenever Persian Gulf states improve the atmosphere of friendship and cooperation among themselves to protect their interest and collective security, American defense officials begin to make statements [that Iranian and Iraqi missiles warrant an effective regional missile defense] which generate tension.2

Mohammad Mohammadi, Spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, Iran:

[T]he American Defense Secretary continues to pursue his backward policies [to promote the idea that regional states need a missile defense to protect themselves from Iran and Iraq] in an effort to create pessimism and tension [in] the region.3

Unnamed Spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, North Korea:

[T]he TMD [theater missile defense] system is a dangerous military plan prompted by Japanese conservatives to achieve military modernization.... If Japan continues to adhere to the development of this system, it is obvious the military buildup and arms race will be all the more fierce in Northeast Asia.4

[North]Korean Central News Agency:

[The planned deployment of Patriot anti-missile batteries is] a blatant challenge to the nation's desire for peace and denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and an unpardonable act to exterminate the nation through a nuclear war by deliberately increasing the tension.5

This [building NMD and TMD systems] is intended to secure its military edge in east Asia and other parts of the world and meet its hegemonic ambition for global domination. The U.S. talk about "missile threat" from somebody is nothing but a trite subterfuge to justify its criminal move to build systems.6

Commentary in Nodong Sinmum (North Korean Newspaper):

Japan's plan to take part in the establishment of the TMD system...indicates that the...system's target is the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea, or North Korea] and the military modernization...is designed to reinvade Korea militarily and, furthermore dominate the whole of Asia.... Such moves...will inevitably enkindle [an] arms race in the Asian region.7

Pyongyang Korean Central Broadcasting Network:

[T]he introduction of the Patriot missile system...to South Korea poses a grave threat to our Republic, and it is very certain that it will bring about a very dangerous situation of further aggravating tension on the Korean Peninsula and increasing the danger of war.8

Baghdad Al-'Iraq (Newspaper):

[United States Secretary of Defense William Cohen] proposed [the] malicious idea...that...Iraqi missiles still [threaten] the Arabian Gulf countries, so these countries should protect themselves by purchasing Patriot missiles and establishing a joint defense system with the United States....9

Unnamed Spokesman for the Ministry of Culture and Information, Iraq:

Against whom will these [Patriot] missiles [be] deployed? [H]ave Turkish Government circles not heard the report of the UN Special Commission [UNSCOM]? Despite its suspicious connection, lies, fabrications, and concealment of truth, UNSCOM has affirmed that the Iraqi missile arsenal has been completely destroyed. Against whom then will Turkey deploy these [Patriot] missiles?10

Muammar Qadhafi, Head of State, Libya:

Why are they installing Patriot missiles in southern Italy...? Would this mean that they are going to use southern Italy to strike at the Arab countries?11

Mustafa Tlass, Defense Minister, Syria:

If the Americans had to fight a "`Star Wars" conflict...they would suffer a catastrophe.... No matter how sophisticated anti-rocket systems are, 10 percent of the offensive missiles reach their target.12

Li Changhe, Ambassador of China to the United Nations Conference on Disarmament:

They [national and theater missile defense systems] are detrimental to the international efforts in arms control and disarmament and may even trigger a new round of arms race and break regional strategic balances in the next century.13

Zhu Rongji, Prime Minister, China:

We oppose the TMD. We particularly and firmly oppose the inclusion of Taiwan....14

[T]he...Theater Missile Defense System...violates international missile agreement[s]...[and] interferes in China's internal affairs and encroaches on China's sovereignty and territorial integrity.15

Sun Yuxi, Foreign Ministry, China:

It [U.S. development of a national missile defense] will have a wide-ranging and far-reaching negative impact on the global...strategic balance and stability in the 21st century.16

Sha Zukang, Director-General, Department of Arms Control and Disarmament, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, China:

[T]he development of advanced TMD or even NMD will have a negative impact on regional or even global strategic stability.17

If a country...seeks to develop advanced TMD or even NMD...other countries will be forced to develop more advanced offensive missiles. This will give rise to a new arms race.... [I]t is extremely important to maintain and strengthen the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty.18

During the Cold War, ABM...made it possible for the two countries to make deep cuts into their respective nuclear arsenals.19

TMD in Taiwan will give the pro-independence forces in Taiwan a false sense of security, which may incite them to make reckless moves. This can only lead to instability across the Taiwan Strait or even in the entire North-East Asia region.20

The development of such a system [a missile defense capable of intercepting strategic missiles] will constitute an impediment to the further reduction of nuclear weapons by the major nuclear powers, touch off a new round of arms race and destabilize the global strategic equilibrium.21

Igor Ivanov, Foreign Minister, Russia:

We believe that this intention [deployment of theater missile defenses] is dangerous...because it is easy...to transcend the bounds of the agreements and commitments, which are now in force.... I am referring primarily to the...ABM treaty.22

We definitely proceed from that the future reductions of offensive strategic armaments are possible only in conditions of a clear understanding of the prospects for observing that [ABM] treaty as the corner-stone of strategic-stability.23

Leonid Ivashov, Senior Russian General:

The United States is artificially heating up the situation although it knows quite well that these countries [North Korea and Iran] do not possess nuclear potential.24

[U.S. planned deployment of a theater missile defense] will undermine stability in the Far Eastern region, [and] will lash the race of missile technologies.25

Vladimir Ryzhkov, First Deputy Speaker of the Duma, Russia:

[Madeleine Albright] went on all the time about North Korean missiles, saying that...a North Korean missile could reach their territory--although that is...ridiculous.26

Yevgeny Primakov, former Prime Minister, Russia:

The 1972 ABM treaty is the basis of strategic stability. Undermining it would have destructive consequences for the entire global disarmament process and for the international regimes of nonproliferation....27

Jack Spencer is a Research Assistant in The Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis International Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation.


1. "Television Program Summary," IRIB Television First Program Network in Persian, FBIS-NES-1999-0323, Tehran, March 23, 1999.

2. "Iranian Spokesman Reacts to Secretary Cohen's Remarks," IRNA, FBIS-NES-98-284, Tehran, October 11, 1998.

3. "Iran: Iranian Spokesman Reacts to Secretary Cohen's Remarks," Tehran IRNA, FBIS-NES-98-284, October 11, 1998.

4. "Foreign Ministry Opposes Japan's Development of TMD System," Korean Central Broadcasting Network, FBIS-EAS-97-041, North Korea, March 1, 1997.

5. Carol Giacomo, "Christopher Sees Unity on N Korea Issue," Reuters North American Wire, March 29, 1994.

6. "North Korea Criticizes US Missile Defence System Plan," British Broadcasting Corporation, April 7, 1999.

7. "Japan Urged to Stop Seeking Overseas Expansion," Nodong Sinmum, Korean Central News Agency, FBIS-EAS-97-075, Pyongyang, North Korea, March 16, 1997.

8. "North Korea: Plans to Introduce Missile Defense Systems to ROK Denounced," Pyongyang Korean Central Broadcasting Network, FBIS-EAS-97-087, March 28, 1997.

9. Ghalib Zanjabil, "Cohen's Recent Tour," Baghdad Al-'Iraq, FBIS-NES-1999-0321, March 16, 1999.

10. Ministry of Culture and Information Spokesman, Unscheduled Announcement, FBIS-NES-99-016, Baghdad Iraq Television Network, January 16, 1999.

11. "Libyans Protest U.N. Sanctions, Warn Italy," UPI, May 20, 1992.

12. Gerald Nadler, "Syrian Chief Says Iraq Has Superior Weapons," UPI, February 8, 1991.

13. "PRC Envoy Calls for Preventing Arms Race in Outer Space," Beijing Xinhua, FBIS-CHI-1999-0211, February 11, 1999.

14. Zhu Rongji, Chinese Prime Minister, News Conference, Beijing Central Television Program One Network, FBIS-CHI-1999-0315, Beijing, March 15, 1999.

15. Ibid.

16. "China: More on Spokesman on NMD, TMD Systems," Beijing Zhongguo Xinwen She, FBIS-CHI-99-021, Beijing, January 21, 1999.

17. Sha Zukang, Director-General of the Department of Arms Control and Disarmament Under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, Seventh Annual Carnegie International Non-Proliferation Conference, FBIS-CHI-1999-0216, January 11, 1999.

18. Ibid.

19. Ibid.

20. Ibid.

21. "PRC: Ambassador Urges Stop of Theater Missile Defense System," Beijing XINHUA, FBIS-TAC-96-010, Beijing, October 18, 1996.

22. "Ivanov Warns Against Japan-USA ABM Plans," ITAR-TASS New Agency, February 22, 1999.

23. "Russia Says Differences Should Not Affect Relations With US," ITAR-TASS News Agency, January 26, 1999.

24. "Report: Top Russian General Blasts U.S. Over Missile Treaty," AP Worldstream, January 25, 1999.

25. Mikhail Shevtsov, "NATO Expansion Harbours Bad Consequences," ITAR-TASS News Agency, March 12, 1999.

26. "Duma Leader on Albright Talks," Moscow Radiostantsiya Ekho Moskvy, FBIS-SOV-1999-0126, January 26, 1999.

27. Yevgeny Primakov, Russian Prime Minister, Interview on Proposed Talks with Visit to Washington, Moscow Obshchaya Gazeta, FBIS-SOV-1999-0329, Moscow, March 25, 1999.

About the Author

Jack Spencer Vice President, the Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity