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Bush 'pleased' by successful missile test

This radar shows the interception of the missile and the subsequent spread of debris
This radar shows the interception of the missile and the subsequent spread of debris  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A White House spokesman said Sunday that President Bush was "pleased" by a successful missile test, but Russia criticized it, saying the test threatened a 1972 arms control agreement.

The White House spokesman noted that this was the second successful missile intercept out of a total of four tests to date.

Pentagon officials were also pleased with the result.

"There's a lot more work to be done, but the early indications we have is that everything worked," Air Force Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish said at an early morning Pentagon briefing. "These tests take many weeks to deduce the data, but we believe we have a successful test in all aspects at this time."

A target missile equipped with a mock warhead was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California late Saturday. Twenty minutes later, the interceptor missile was launched from an island in the Pacific 4,800 miles away. At 11:09 p.m. ET, the two collided in an explosion 150 miles above the ocean.

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Two previous tests of the system have failed. A failure Saturday would have emboldened critics who say the technology doesn't work and is too expensive. A fifth test is planned for October.

A question of threat

Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Delaware, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said it was still too early to say the multibillion-dollar missile defense system sought by Bush was worth pursuing. Biden congratulated the military on a successful test but claimed it was not "a real world test yet." He also questioned the reason for the test.

"It's kind of confusing to some of us and some of the experts out there as to what the purpose of this new test range is," Biden said on Fox News Sunday. "[It] doesn't seem to realistically fit any kind of real new threat or existing threat that we would face."

Kadish said the next test might include added decoys to simulate a real attack. And Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, disagreed with Biden's assessment of potential threat.

"There is a threat," Lott told Fox. "It's real, it's here, it's now. We need to move beyond the old way of thinking. We need a new strategic alliance on how we have missile defense and not just base it on offensive weapon destruction."

Russia unhappy

Bush has said he hopes to have a missile defense system up and running by 2004.

Saturday's launch was delayed for two minutes when Greenpeace activists breached security. The Air Force and the Coast Guard arrested them.

The test provoked criticism from Russia, which has argued against it. "Why should the entire architecture of agreements in nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation, and its cornerstone, the 1972 ABM treaty, be put under threat?" asked Alexander Yakovenko, spokesman for Russia's Foreign Ministry.

Still, he said, Russia is open "for an early and substantive dialogue with the U.S. on the START [treaty] and ABM problems" and other strategic issues on the basis of understandings reached by the Russian and U.S. presidents at their recent meeting in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

CNN White House Correspondent Kelly Wallace contributed to this report.

• Vandenberg Air Force Base
• National Missile Defense
• Ballistic Missile Defense
• Greenpeace International

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