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Monday, May 29, 2006

Pentagon pushes for rapid strike weapon

ISN SECURITY WATCH (Monday, 29 May 2006: 16.17 CET) – The Pentagon is pressing the US Congress to approve the development of a new weapon capable of striking distant targets, the International Herald Tribune (IHT) reported Monday.

The Pentagon proposal calls for the deployment of a non-nuclear version of the submarine-launched Trident II missile.

The missile would be used to attack enemy missile sites, suspected biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons facilities and enemy missile sites, military officials told the IHT.

The head of the US Strategic Command, General James Cartwright, said the weapons system would enhance the US military's ability to "pre-empt conventionally" with great accuracy while limiting "collateral damage".

The IHT reports that development of the missile system would cost an estimated half a billion dollars over five years.

The Pentagon has asked congress for US$127 million to make a start on the program but has run into opposition from legislators who fear that the weapon could increase the risk of an accidental nuclear confrontation.

The Trident II has long been fitted with a nuclear warhead, and the Pentagon has confirmed that both nuclear and non-nuclear Trident II missiles would be carried on the same submarines.

A Senate Armed Services Committee member, Senator John Reed, told the IHT: "There is great concern this could be destabilizing in terms of deterrence and nuclear policy […] It would be hard to determine if a missile coming out [of] a Trident submarine is conventional or nuclear."

Legislators are demanding that the White House present proposals for mitigating attendant risks before approving the funding allocation.
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