WASHINGTON – Missile defense tests scheduled in advance of a U.S. visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin have been delayed indefinitely, the secretary of defense announced Thursday.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the tests were being delayed to avoid accusations that the United States is violating the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that prohibits nationwide missile defenses.
"In recent days, to keep from having it suggested that we might not be keeping that commitment, we have voluntarily restrained our ballistic missile defense test program," Rumsfeld said.
"We will not violate the treaty while it remains in force," he said.
Rumsfeld said the decision will aid discussions on missile defense planned between President Bush and Putin when they meet at the president's ranch in mid-November.
The Pentagon had scheduled three tests. Two of the tests were to have taken place Wednesday, one day ago. An Aegis radar on a surface ship had been scheduled to track a strategic ballistic missile launched as a target for a missile interceptor. During that test, a tracking radar at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., was to have tracked the target missile.
On Nov. 14, an Aegis radar was to track a Titan 2 missile.
Bush said as recently as last week that the 1972 ABM treat is outdated. He told Putin during a meeting in China last week that a missile defense system was even more important in light of recent terror attacks, arguing that if terrorists can plan such a massive attack as they did on Sept. 11, it won't be long before they obtain intercontinental ballistic missile launchers.
"For some time now, we've advised the Congress and the government of the Russian Federation that the planned missile defense testing program that we had was going to bump up against the ABM Treaty. That has now happened," Rumsfeld said.
The Bush administration has considered discussing other security treaties that move beyond the ABM treaty. Russia wants to keep the treaty in force, arguing that it is important for global security.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.