Two Join Missile Defense Program; Australia, India to Participate in U.S. Efforts to Build a Shield

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), January 14, 2004 | Go to article overview

Two Join Missile Defense Program; Australia, India to Participate in U.S. Efforts to Build a Shield


Byline: Tom Carter, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Australia and India said yesterday they would join the Bush administration in developing a missile defense, adding to a growing coalition of nations willing to fund, research and possibly deploy a shield against rockets fired by terrorists and rogue states.

"It is in Australia's national interest to play a part," Australian Defense Minister Robert Hill said.

" ... We are working with the Americans at the moment to set up a framework for our involvement. ... We will hopefully have a memorandum of understanding a little later this year," Mr. Hill told reporters in Canungra, Queensland.

Australia has already announced plans to purchase three air warfare class destroyers, which could be integrated into a future missile defense shield.

Mr. Hill said he was impressed with last month's successful firing of a Standard Missile-3 interceptor missile from a U.S. Aegis cruiser that knocked a target out of the sky.

"You know a few years ago very sound scientists were saying you know this is still decades away. And already in trials now we are seeing intercepts in really quite extraordinary circumstances," he said.

In New Delhi, Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee announced an agreement with the United States this week that would give India access to previously off-limits technology, including nuclear, space-related and other high technologies.

The agreement, which President Bush also announced at the Summit of the Americas in Monterrey, Mexico, included a provision to expand dialogue with India on missile defense.

The announcements follow recent decisions by Canada and Japan to participate in U.S. efforts to develop a working missile shield.

The Pentagon yesterday cautioned that no official agreements had been signed, but welcomed the positive statements from Australia and India.

"The past couple of years the United States has been encouraging our allies to participate in missile defense," spokeswoman Cheryl Irwin said.

Analysts said yesterday the international participation will make the U.S. program easier to fund domestically, and give it international credibility.

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