August 27, 2006

Rumsfeld eyes ICBMs in terror war

By Kristin Roberts

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld on Sunday warned North Korea may pose a threat as a
weapons seller to terrorists and that America would consider
taking the nuclear warheads off intercontinental ballistic
missiles so they could be used against terrorists.

Rumsfeld, in Alaska to visit a missile defense installation
weeks after Pyongyang test-fired a long-range missile believed
capable of reaching the United States, said North Korea is
testing missiles to show the capabilities to potential buyers.

"They sell anything to anyone," he said.

"They sell our currency that they counterfeit. They're
selling illegal drugs. They're selling basic missile
technologies. There's not much they have that they wouldn't
sell either to another country or possibly to a terrorist

In fact, Rumsfeld said North Korea is more a danger as a
proliferator than a military force to challenge South Korea.

"I think the real threat that North Korea poses in the
immediate future is more one of proliferation than a danger to
South Korea," he told reporters.

The defense secretary also met with Russian Defense
Minister Sergei Ivanov on Sunday to discuss missile defense and
cooperation on defense technologies, among other things.

Rumsfeld, after that closed-door meeting, said the Pentagon
was considering a plan to replace the nuclear warheads on some
intercontinental ballistic missiles with conventional weapons,
a move that would make the missiles less lethal and therefore
more conceivable for politicians to use in preemptive strikes
against terrorist groups.

The re-tipped missiles would offer the ability to
accurately and quickly target such groups as the threat they
pose grows due to their acquisition of weapons of mass
destruction and other lethal weapons from proliferators,
Rumsfeld said.

"We think that it's conceivable that five, 10 years from
now there could be a target because of proliferation ... that
would be able to be hit or deterred as the case may be by a
conventional ICBM," Rumsfeld said.

Standing next to his Russian counterpart, Rumsfeld said he
hoped Russia would consider the same plan.

But Ivanov said Russia had concerns and that there may be
other solutions for preemptive strikes, such as the use of
intermediate-range missiles, now prohibited by a treaty


Rumsfeld also toured Fort Greely, home to one of America's
missile defense installations, ahead of another test of the
system's ability to intercept long-range missiles.

While the head of the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency has
repeatedly said U.S. defenses could have shot down a North
Korean missile, had it launched successfully in July, Rumsfeld
would not make the same assertion. He said he would wait to see
the missile defense system work instead of predicting success.

"I want to see it happen ... a full end-to-end process
where we actually put all the pieces together. That just hasn't
happened," he said.

The United States has spent more than $92 billion on its
fledgling missile defense system. Tests continue, with another
expected on Thursday.

President George W. Bush in 2002 announced the United
States would begin operating the initial elements of a missile
defense system by the end of 2004 to defend against a limited
attack from a country like North Korea or Iran.

Since then, U.S. missile defense spending has risen to
nearly $10 billion a year, the Pentagon's single biggest annual
outlay to develop a weapons system.

Intercept-test failures and technical glitches have delayed
development, although commanders said it has a rudimentary
capability against a limited attack if ground-based
interceptors are put on alert.