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Russia condemns U.S. missile test

South Korea
Protesters in South Korea want their government to condemn missile defence plans  

LONDON, England -- The United States' test of its controversial anti-ballistic missile system has been denounced by Moscow and environmental groups.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said the trial in the Pacific Ocean, which the Pentagon said was successful, threatened the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and risked sparking a new arms race.

"Why should the entire architecture of agreements in nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation, and its cornerstone, the 1972 ABM treaty, be put under threat?" said Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko.

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 based on recent understandings.

U.S. missile test direct hit  

The launch was conducted ahead of the arrival of the president of China -- another country which fiercely opposes the proposal -- in Moscow on Sunday.

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In China itself, Reuters reported the official Xinhua news agency giving a report on the test quoting from a Pentagon statement, followed by the conclusion: "Arms control experts said that the U.S. missile defence plan, opposed by the international community, will not only spark a new arms race, but also threaten world peace and security, and stimulate nuclear proliferation."

Meanwhile, in South Korea, about 1,000 demonstrators clashed with police at a U.S. bombing range, demanding their government not take any part in the planned system.

Washington has used the threat of "rogue states" such as North Korea to underscore the need for a missile shield that it is planned will shoot missiles out of the air.

The U.S. Defence Department said the latest test in which a dummy warhead, carried aboard a missile fired from a U.S. Air Force Base in California, was shot down 225 km (140 miles) above the Pacific by a "kill vehicle" launched from the Marshall Islands was a direct hit

Putin and Jiang Zemin
Putin and Jiang Zemin are fiercely opposed to the U.S. plans  

And Air Force Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish told reporters at a Pentagon briefing they would be pressing ahead with the programme: "This is one in a series of tests, and we will continue to press (forward) to our objectives in the programme ... This test is just one in a journey."

But environmental campaign group Greenpeace said the latest $100-million dollar launch put lives at risk, going ahead with two Greenpeace divers and boats being within the safety zone area. It said 18 protesters in the area of the test had now been arrested.

And it said continued tests would put millions of lives at risk around the world.

"The Star Wars program threatens to start a new nuclear arms race," Greenpeace Pacific spokeswoman Samantha Magick said in a statement.

A spokesperson for the British Ministry of Foreign Affair told CNN that while aware of the test it did not change the government's position that it would not respond on the defence plan until a firm proposal was on the table.

Many other European countries have fears for the effects on international stability and the ABM treaty.

The U.S.-Soviet pact banned such systems on the assumption that it would discourage both sides from launching a first strike for fear of retaliation.

Kadish said the next test is scheduled for October and may include added decoys to simulate a real attack. Bush has says he plans to have the system in place by 2004.

• Russian Ministry of Defence
• Greenpeace
• U.S. Department of Defense

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