US hutzpah hypocrisy: nuclear missile test


Richard Moore

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U.S nuclear missile test: do as we say, not as we do

Michael Spies

Less than a week after the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a
resolution condemning North Korea for test launching several ballistic missiles,
the United States is set to launch an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental 
ballistic missile on Wednesday from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The
missile, carrying three dummy warheads, will be fired across the Pacific toward 
the missile test range at Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, with a flight
time of about 30 minutes.

According to the Santa Maria Times, the test scheduled for early Wednesday 
morning is intended to test the reliability and capability of the missile 
system. The United States currently deploys 500 Minuteman III missiles, kept on 
high alert and each carrying a single nuclear warhead with a yield, depending on
the configuration, of 170 kT or 335 kT, respectively 10 or 20 times more 
powerful than the U.S. atomic bomb that devastated Hiroshima.

This test is the latest in an ongoing series of regularly scheduled ballistic 
missile tests conducted by the U.S. military. In the period between January 2000
and the present, the U.S. has test launched at least 23 Minuteman III ICBMs from
Vandenberg. The last test of a Minuteman III occurred on June 14th. Regarding 
the purpose of the test, Andrew Lichterman pointed out that according to the 
30th Space Wing, the goal was to ³provide key accuracy and reliability data for 
on-going and future modifications to the weapon system, which are key to 
improving the already impressive effectiveness of the Minuteman III force.² He 
further noted that ³as this blog has documented, this is only one small part of 
a wide-ranging effort to develop the next generation of U.S. strategic weapons, 
with the intention of being able to strike targets anywhere on earth in hours or

The ongoing conduct of these tests represents yet another example of U.S. 
exceptionalism; the U.S. feels no embarrassment in criticizing others for the 
same activities it or its allies engage in. For instance, days after the North 
Korean tests the Bush Administration ³offered an unprecedented defense and 
rationalization of India¹s missile test and nuclear programme² following India¹s
test launch of a nuclear capable Agni-III missile. The tests of such weapon 
systems is ill-timed following the international chorus of condemnation, 
partially led by the U.S., of the North Korean tests. In the regional context of
the Korean Peninsula, given the heightened tensions surrounding North Korea¹s 
nuclear weapons program, the U.S. test of a nuclear capable missile is 
unambiguously provocative. In the global context, the U.S. missile test is 
blatant hypocrisy, symptomatic of a dangerous foreign policy based on the 
imposition of discriminatory, self-serving norms backed by the threat and use of

The recent UN Security Council resolution condemning the North Korean tests also
exemplifies this one-sided approach to international security, pursued by all 
the major powers and imposed on the world through their disproportionate 
influence over inter-governmental bodies. The North Korea resolution reaffirms 
that the ³proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, as well as 
their means of delivery, constitutes a threat to international peace and 
security.² However, the resolution is silent on the threat to others posed by 
the continued possession, reliance, improvement and testing of such weapons and 
their related delivery systems by the permanent members of the Security Council,
and, according to the Blix report, the 35 other states that have acquired or 
developed ballistic missile capabilities.

There is currently no treaty that bans the development or testing of missiles 
and other delivery systems, nor are there any agreements for their 
dismantlement. The current non-treaty based Missile Technology Control Regime 
(MTCR), ardently backed by the U.S., seeks to rein in missile proliferation 
through export controls. This is similar to the approach taken in recent 
proposals for the control of the production of fissile material for civilian 
nuclear power. Both these initiatives seek to restrict such technologies to 
states which already possess it.

Yet the logic of this approach breaks down in the face of the reality that the 
acquisition of these capabilities and technologies directly impact security. On 
the one hand some states continue to rely on missile technology as an integral 
aspect of their security forces. On the other hand, states have developed 
nuclear fuel cycle capabilities for the purpose of energy security in the 
absence of any guaranteed global supply. In both cases, those states that rely 
on these capabilities for their own security seek to deny them to others. This 
is akin to the wolf demanding to be allowed to guard the henhouse.

Ultimately, the present discriminatory, non-comprehensive approach is not stable
or sustainable. At best it can only be maintained by the threat or use of force,
with Iraq now standing as the model for a major power attempting to rely on 
military power alone to prevent an adversary from developing certain 
capabilities and technologies. Yet, unable to handle the present crisis, the 
Bush Administration blithely marches forward into new crises, endangering the 
world¹s populations, without any plan aside from the false promise of military 

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