US President George W. Bush pledged Thursday to move speedily to erect an anti-missile shield, marking Washington's formal withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
"I am committed to deploying a missile defense system as soon as possible to protect the American people and our deployed forces against the growing missile threats we face," Bush said in a statement.
"Because these threats also endanger our allies and friends around the world, it is essential that we work together to defend against them, an important task which the ABM prohibited."
Bush gave the requisit six months notice on December 13 that Washington was pulling out of the 1972 accord, which forbids national missile defense shields.
While many have regarded the treaty as the cornerstone of arms control for nearly three decades, the Republican president has dismissed the treaty as a Cold War relic.
On Saturday work is to begin on the missile shield, with a ground breaking ceremony on silos for six interceptor missiles at Fort Greely, Alaska. It is due to be completed by September 2004.
According to the Pentagon, the Alaska missile site, which would have been prohibited under the ABM treaty, is mainly a "test bed" enabling the military to monitor tests in the Pacific.
Russia, China and the United States' European allies protested Bush's decision to pull out of the ABM treaty, seeing it as a potential fuse for a new arms race. But Moscow's opposition has diminished with Russian firms hoping to win key missile defence contracts.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Bush signed a historic accord in Moscow last month slashing each side's nuclear arsenals by two thirds to between 1,700 and 2,200 warheads over the next decade.
Russia, US To Discuss Missile Cuts, Air Defense In Fall: Report
"The main point of these talks would be to step up transparency and trust," it quoted diplomatic sources as saying.
No precise dates were set for the consultative group's meetings, but the sources suggested the talks would take place later this year, most likely in Moscow.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and US counterpart George W. Bush signed a historic deal in Moscow last month, slashing each side's nuclear arsenals by two thirds to between 1,700 and 2,200 warheads over the next decade.
Sources said it might take a while for the accord to be ratified. "It might be done before the year's end," they were quoted as saying.
Washington's unilateral withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty (ABM) would be another important topic on the consultative group's agenda, as it enables both nations to develop an anti-missile defence system.
The ABM treaty forbade the US and the Soviet Union from developing a unilateral shield against intercontinental ballistic missile attacks, and also banned testing or deployment of all mobile antiballistic missile systems.
Bush, who has dismissed the ABM treaty as a Cold War relic, believes the US is vulnerable to long-range missile attack from Iran, Iraq or North Korea, nations he regards a part of an "axis of evil."
Russia, China and the United States' European allies initially protested Bush's decision to pull out of the ABM treaty, but even in Moscow opposition has diminished with Russian firms hoping to win key missile defence contracts.
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ABM Treaty Ends, US Open To Experiment On Missile Defense
Washington (AFP) June 13, 2002
As the United States prepares to officially withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty Thursday, its military is proceeding with an ambitious program to create a system to shoot down incoming long-range missiles.
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