Pacific Island Leaders Urged to Protest U.S. Missile Tests

SUVA, Fiji, March 19, 2002 (ENS) - Pacific island countries must speak out against the United States for using the Pacific Ocean as a testing ground for their missile defense system, the Pacific Concerns Resource Centre (PCRC) said Monday.

Patrina Dumaru, a spokesperson for the Pacific Concerns Resource Centre in Suva, said the U.S. and other world powers have abused the Pacific region for military experiments, which have never helped the Pacific Islands but put them at more risk of being caught in a military conflict, or be at the center of a catastrophic accident.

"Another $100 million was wasted over the weekend with the U.S. missile defense test over the central Pacific Ocean," PCRC said. The Pacific islanders view the test as a "fundamentally flawed experiment, conducted at the expense of international relations and justice in the Pacific."


Minuteman Intercontinental Ballistic Missile launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California March 15. (Photo by Dan Tkach courtesy U.S. Air Force)
At 9:15 pm EST March 15, which is early Saturday morning Fiji Standard Time, a prototype interceptor was launched from the Ronald Reagan Missile Site at Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, and intercepted a modified Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile target vehicle launched 20 minutes earlier from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The U.S. Air Force termed the interception at more than 140 miles above the Earth a success. "This is a major step in the aggressive developmental test program, and is the fourth successful intercept in six attempts, test officials said.

Test officials said they will continue to pursue this testing regime "to achieve a layered approach to missile defense, using different architectures to deter the growing threat of ballistic missiles carrying weapons of mass destruction."

PCRC said although the latest test was deemed a success by the United States, "it failed to address the full range of countermeasures or decoys that an enemy would use to try to outwit an antimissile weapon. Crews firing the interceptor missiles from Kwajalein Atoll had knowledge of the launch, origin and power of the target missile - none of which would be available during a real attack."


Diving off one of Fiji's 300 plus islands and atolls (Photo courtesy Fiji Visitors Bureau in Auckland)
Despite the controversy and failures, missile defense has recently received a US$2.5 billion increase - bringing the total up to $7.8 billion this financial year money that the Pacific Concerns Resource Centre says would be better spent on health, education and alleviating poverty.

The Fiji group said, "If Pacific Island countries do not speak out or protest against this testing now, we will continue to be subjected to more dangerous tests such as those that irradiated Bikini Islanders in 1954. To the U.S., the Pacific Ocean is just a vast playground, not something to be treated sustainably or with respect."

Pacific leaders should discuss the continuing tests at the next Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Suva in August, PCRC urged, because the issue is relevant to the security and sustainable growth of the region, as well as to global security as a whole.