February 23, 2000

February 23, 2000 | News Releases on Missile Defense

Missile Threat to U.S. Continues to Grow, Heritage Handbook Says

WASHINGTON, FEB. 23, 2000-Missile-defense opponents want President Clinton to delay a decision, scheduled for June, about whether to deploy a national missile defense. But every day, the possibility of a ballistic missile attack against the United States grows more likely, according to a new Heritage Foundation handbook showing exactly which nations are producing which missiles-and how far each weapon can travel.

The threat isn't so much "the big Russian bear with nuclear weapons aimed at us," Energy Secretary Bill Richardson told "60 Minutes II" in August. It's "Russian weapons and expertise and materials being stolen and used by states like Iraq, like Iran, like North Korea, like Libya, that are ultimate enemies." In "The Ballistic Missile Threat Handbook," Heritage Policy Analyst Jack Spencer uses numerous maps and charts to spell out in detail the ballistic missile capability of each one of these nations.

Spencer looks at the missile capabilities of nine countries considered a threat to U.S. security, including China and Russia. He provides a brief history of each nation's program to develop these weapons and offers a quick-reference guide for each missile, including range, payload, and what U.S. or foreign cities it can hit.

For example, the handbook shows why Iraq is still a threat to the United States and its allies nine years after the Gulf War ended. Despite attempts by the United Nations to reduce Iraq's potential to develop weapons of mass destruction, Iraq may have as many as 150 Scud missiles by 2000 because it still has the knowledge, equipment and trained personnel to make them, Spencer says. Those missiles can easily reach several Middle Eastern nations, including Israel, pushing an already tense region even closer to war.

Spencer also says North Korea is working on a missile with a range of 6,200 miles, making it capable of hitting cities or military bases in Alaska and Hawaii, with a lightweight version that could reach the West Coast. And North Korea is reportedly increasing exports of its intermediate-range No Dong missile to Syria, Pakistan and Libya, increasing the threat to America's allies in the Middle East and U.S. troops stationed in the region.

Moreover, the Clinton administration is well aware of the danger posed by missile proliferation around the globe. In a related paper, Heritage Research Fellow Baker Spring notes that as early as 1994, President Clinton had issued an executive order that said "the proliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons … constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States" and declared the situation a "national emergency."

Unfortunately, Spring says, the administration's actions on missile threats have yet to match its rhetoric. He recommends that the United States resume testing its nuclear arsenal, renounce the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (which, despite its rejection by the Senate, the administration still considers binding), block any attempts to revive the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and deploy missile defenses as soon as technologically possible.

"Today the United States is not able to stop even a single long-range missile launched at its territory," Spring writes. "This glaring vulnerability must end."

About the Author

Related Issues: Missile Defense