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U.S. missile defense in Asia aimed at North Korea, China - expert

RIA Novosti

04/06/2007 18:40 HONG KONG (Xianggang), June 4 (RIA Novosti) - The deployment of U.S. missile defense system elements in East Asia is aimed not only against North Korea but also against China, an expert with the Hong Kong think-tank Kanwa said Monday.

Andrei Chang, interviewed by RIA Novosti, commented on reports about intensifying talks between the U.S., Japan and Australia on the deployment of a regional missile defense system in Asia, which China has repeatedly voiced concerns over.

"According to arriving information, the U.S. plan envisions deployment of missile defense elements in Japan and Australia, where not only antimissile installations but powerful XBR radars will be placed," Chang said.

"The radars' range is a secret, but in my opinion, it should be approximately 4,000 kilometers (2,486 miles), which will allow the Americans to follow, if necessary, the launches of Chinese missiles from the main testing range in the Shanxi province," he said, adding that "an additional monitoring point could be very important in the event of war."

Chang said that presently U.S. missile defense systems cannot stop Russian or Chinese intercontinental missiles, but added that in the future the situation could change.

"Today the speed of interceptor missiles is 3.5 kilometers (2 miles) per second, while the speed of Russian and Chinese missiles is about five kilometers (3 miles) per second, but technologies are developing very fast, and in 10 years, the U.S. could deploy a missile defense system capable of stopping Russian missiles," he said.

Chang said the threat North Korea represents does not justify the creation of a regional missile defense system.

"I don't think North Korea could launch missiles capable of covering 4,000 kilometers," he said, adding that in his opinion, the priority for the U.S. now is missile defense deployment in Central Europe.

Chang did not rule out that China and Russia could coordinate their efforts in the future to counter missile defense threats.

"Russia is worried about U.S. plans in Eastern Europe, China - in East Asia, and the two countries can evidently decide to pursue a coordinated policy on this account," he said.

He said China will step up the development of its own missile program if the Asian missile defense system is created.

Speaking Friday ahead of a summit of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations, President Vladimir Putin said the proposed U.S. missile bases in Europe would be part of the U.S. nuclear arsenal and that Russia could be forced to aim its nuclear weapons at Europe.

"If part of the U.S.'s strategic nuclear arsenal is located in Europe and our military experts find that it poses a threat to Russia, we will have to take appropriate retaliatory steps," Putin said.

Russia has responded angrily to U.S. plans, announced in January, to deploy interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar base in the Czech Republic to counter possible missiles attacks from Iran and North Korea.

At the news conference, Putin dismissed Washington's justification for the planned missile shield as ungrounded, saying the two countries did not have long-range missiles capable of reaching Europe, and that the system, which was "designed as protection against something that does not exist ...changes the configuration of international security."

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