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 You are in: Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security > Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN) > Releases > Remarks > 2005

ASEAN Regional Forum CBM Seminar on Missile Defense

Stephen G. Rademaker, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation
Introductory Remarks
Bangkok, Thailand
October 6, 2005

(As Delivered)

I am very pleased to welcome you to the ARF CBM Seminar on Missile Defense. I know some of you have come a long way. I thank you for being here. I am particularly grateful to our Thai hosts for providing Bangkok, one of the great cities of the world, as the backdrop for this seminar.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank, on behalf of the United States, those ARF participants who have responded with relief supplies, personnel, and other resources to the human tragedy caused by Hurricane Katrina, one of the most destructive hurricanes in U.S. history. We are deeply grateful for your kind offers of assistance.

Importance of the Seminar

We hope this seminar will be a milestone in the evolution of the ARF as the premier cooperative security forum of the Asia-Pacific region. In proposing this seminar, and working with our Thai co-chair to develop it, the goals of the United States were essentially threefold: 1) to help strengthen the ARF as a forum in which serious security issues can be discussed and better understood; 2) to promote greater transparency on missile defense and international security issues more generally; and 3) to address questions, concerns and common misconceptions that may exist about missile defense.

In promoting transparency and dialogue on missile defense, we believe this seminar will contribute to our common objective of strengthening the ARF. The ARF has come a long way since its founding over a decade ago. It began, necessarily, with modest CBM measures but now the ARF is holding seminars on issues as important as missile defense. Additionally, the ARF is poised to take a more active role in Preventive Diplomacy.

I think all of us can agree that even a few years ago we would not have been able to talk about missile defense in the ARF. However, today and tomorrow, we can talk about it frankly and in the spirit of mutual cooperation and confidence building. I hope we can build on what we do here today and tomorrow.

Let me turn now to missile defense and what drives it — the problems of WMD and ballistic missile proliferation.

Missile Defense and Missile Proliferation

For some of you, the topic of missile defense may seem far removed from the kinds of security issues that have been the focus of ARF confidence-building measures in recent years. But allow me to say a few words about why it is important for us to talk about missile defense in the ARF and why it is right and appropriate for the ARF to undertake this seminar.

At the 11th ARF Meeting in July 2004, the ARF issued a statement on non-proliferation, which, among other things, declared that the proliferation of WMD in all its aspects and their means of delivery constitute a threat to international peace and security and a growing danger to all states. Missile defense is a prudent response to a dangerous and growing problem that, directly or indirectly, affects every country of the region: the proliferation of WMD and their missile delivery systems. These threats are not hypothetical. They are real and they are growing. And no country —no country — is immune from the threat. So the threat and the response to it — missile defense — is relevant to us all.

Along with nonproliferation, arms control, counter-proliferation, diplomacy, and other measures, missile defense is part of a comprehensive tool kit to deal with WMD and the ballistic missile means of delivery. To be sure, missile defense is more relevant and more urgent to some than to others; much depends on individual circumstances and geography, but it is important to us all.

Some countries may have little need for territorial defense because their territory is not now directly threatened, but, for example, they may — by virtue of their participation in international coalitions and peacekeeping operations — benefit from having their forces and other personnel protected by missile defenses. It is worth noting, for example, that the event producing the most coalition casualties in the 1991 Gulf War to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi occupation was an Iraqi Scud missile attack against U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia.

Other countries, including some represented here today, are within range of ballistic missiles that pose an immediate threat to their populations and territory. It is also important to understand and continually bear in mind that, if ballistic missiles were actually used in combination with WMD, it is likely that no country in the region would be unaffected.

Some would experience the devastating physical effects more directly than others, but the financial, political, social, and environmental effects would radiate outward. The region and the world would be forever changed.

So, just as the problem of missile proliferation is relevant to us all — so too is missile defense — as part of the solution to the problem. Missile defense offers the prospect of preventing or mitigating such cataclysmic events and their far-reaching effects. The presentations that we will hear over the next two days at this seminar should further our understanding of this threat and of the importance of missile defense as a necessary and proper response to this threat.

Furthermore, we must keep in mind that some regimes controlling these missiles have exhibited a willingness to employ WMD. Leaders of these regimes may be unpredictable and prone to take risks. They may miscalculate that WMD-armed ballistic missiles could be useful tools of coercion, terror, blackmail and aggression. And possession of such weapons may make it more difficult, if not impossible, to deter such regimes. In that case, missile defense offers an insurance policy. It can prevent missiles and WMD from getting through to their targets. It can deny an aggressor confidence in its ability to inflict mass destruction. Effective missile defenses thereby undercut the value of ballistic missiles as a means of delivering WMD.

Finally, it is important to bear in mind that missile defense is fundamentally about creating an alternative to the traditional means by which countries that feel threatened by the deployment of offensive ballistic missiles in another country respond to that threat. The traditional response to such a threat has been to deploy a countervailing offensive strike capability in order to be able to retaliate in the event of a ballistic missile attack.

This is the strategy of deterrence. The problem with deterrence is that it can quickly lead to an arms race that diminishes the security of all countries in a region. Missile defense affords countries that feel threatened by ballistic missile deployments a non-threatening way to respond. It therefore should be welcomed by all. While non-missile delivery means can also be used to conduct WMD attacks, that in no way diminishes the usefulness of developing and deploying defensive systems capable of countering ballistic missile attacks.

Having said all this, I understand that missile defense policies and programs may not be well understood by everyone. That is one reason why the U.S. and Thailand proposed this seminar on missile defense at the Potsdam ARF ISG meeting last February. It will provide opportunities to exchange and better understand views in the region on the growing risks of ballistic missile and WMD proliferation and to consider the role that missile defense can play, along with other tools, in providing security and in countering proliferation. I hope we all take full advantage of these opportunities.

The goal of this seminar, like the ARF itself, is to promote transparency, dialogue, understanding and, through these, to build confidence and trust. And, as if that alone were not sufficient, this seminar should also serve as yet another demonstration of the growing vitality of the ARF, its ability to address serious security issues, and to serve as a preeminent security forum for the region. Thank you.

Released on October 17, 2005

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