Washington (AFP) August 10, 2000 - The proposed US nuclear missile defense (NMD) shield could prompt China to increase by tenfold its nuclear arsenal, and Russia to increase the payload on some of its missiles, the US press said Thursday quoting a secret intelligence report.
The report, "Foreign Responses to US National Missile Defense Deployment," also estimates that North Korea, Iran and Iraq could develop ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States by 2015, officials familiar with the report told the dailies.
The NMD system is designed to shoot down incoming long-range missiles fired from countries with 'limited' capability such as North Korea, Iran and Iraq.
Initial deployment of NMD could come as early as 2005 if US President Bill Clinton gives the project the green light, but some analysts believe he will leave that decision to the new president who will take office in January.
The secret report, included in a semi-annual study known as a National Intelligence Estimate and which makes no recommendation for or against NMD, was given to Clinton in the last few days and is expected to be sent to Congress on Thursday.
China, the report said, is already modernizing and modestly expanding its arsenal of around 20 intercontinental ballistic missiles, but in response to NMD it would probably expand its force to as many as 200 missiles to overwhelm the US shield's capabilities, the officials said.
And while Russia is unlikely to undertake a significant buildup of its missile forces, NMD could prompt it to deploy shorter-range missiles along its borders and return to multiple-warhead ballistic missiles, the sources quoted in The Washington Post and New York Times dailies said.
US Secretary of Defense William Cohen on Monday denied reports that he planned to advise Clinton to approve a limited version of NMD, telling reporters that he expected to report to the president on the matter within the next few weeks.
On Wednesday, the Pentagon said that the rush to meet an unrealistic deadline resulted in technical glitches that might delay the possible deployment of NMD by the 2005 target date.
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