Ihe Pentagon's assessment of the program to develop a National Missile Defense (NMD) system has been delayed by "several weeks", and is now expected in early September.
In the highest level talks since 1953, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met North Korea’s Foreign Minister Paek Nam-sun in Bangkok. The meeting took place during the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum, which North Korea was attending for the first time. Secretary Albright said the meeting was a "symbolically historic step away from the sterility and hostility of the past." The 70-minute discussion – which lasted twice as long as had been scheduled –was "a useful and substantive exchange of views," according to one State Department official. Secretary Albright said she had addressed all issues of American concern, including North Korea’s missile program and had asked about Pyongyang's reported willingness to end this program in exchange for space launch services. The Secretary received no clarification on this point.
The Republican Party will adopt its official platform at this week's Convention in Philadelphia. The draft platform basically mirrors the position of candidate George W. Bush and will likely be approved with little modification. Two weeks from now, the Democratic Party will complete their own platform for adoption by the Party convention in Los Angeles.
During the years of isolation from the West, China’s posture rhetorically favored nuclear weapons proliferation, particularly in the Third World, as a rallying point for anti-imperialism. Through the 1970s, China’s policy was not to oppose nuclear proliferation, which it still saw as limiting U.S. and Soviet power.
History of the Nuclear Age Series
Iran had its first successful test of the Shahab-3 ballistic missile on July 15. The first test missile in July 1998 exploded shortly after launch. The missile is based on the North Korean NoDong-1, with a range of 1200-1300 kilometers with a one-ton payload. Some cite Iran as a ballistic missile threat justifying deployment of an American national missile defense system. However, Iran remains primarily a regional concern.
A rift between Russia' top two military leaders about the future of Russia's intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) force went public last week following Chief of the General Staff, Anatoli Kvashnin's, proposal to reorganize the Strategic Rocket Force (SRF). Russia's Minister of Defense, Marshal Igor Sergeyev, has sharply criticized the plan as "criminal stupidity and an attempt to harm Russia's national interests." His position has been echoed not only by the SRF but also by the Russian media. Despite this opposition Kvashnin's plan reflects a growing feeling in the Russian military that conventional forces, and particularly operations in Chechnya, unfairly bear the brunt of a tight military budget. Under Sergeyev, who used to head Russia's strategic forces, the needs of the ICBM forces have received priority.
Beijing's proliferation record may stall efforts to grant China permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with the U.S. At issue are allegations that China continues to provide missile components and technical advice to other states. While China is not technically a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), it has pledged to abide by MTCR guidelines.
The failed test of the national missile defense system on July 8 was a humiliating setback for the program. In the $100 million integrated flight test-5 (IFT-5), the high speed interceptor missile fired from the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean was supposed to destroy a dummy warhead launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The exoatmospheric kill vehicle (EKV) failed to separate from its booster rocket; program officials had not even included this possibility on their list of test concerns.
U.S. and North Korean officials made no concrete progress after three days of talks in Malaysia. U.S. officials are hopeful that the next round would take place before the end of the year. However, no date has been set. The near-term goal of the talks is to solidify plans for a visit to Washington by Kim Yong-sun, who would be the highest-ranking North Korean official to visit the U.S. Capitol.