BALLISTIC MISSILE DEFENCE
1. Missile Defence is not, strictly speaking,
an element of the work on the SDR New Chapter, although it is,
of course, related to some of the issues that are being considered.
It is an issue which was already in play before 11 September,
is driven by a wider range of considerations, and is following
a separate timetable.
2. The events of 11 September show that
there are those who will seek to threaten with whatever means
are available the US, its friends and allies. In the future this
might include ballistic missiles. We agree with the US that a
comprehensive strategy to tackle all these threats is needed.
3. We currently judge that it would be premature
to decide on acquiring a ballistic missile defence capability
for either UK territory or forces deployed overseas. This position
is based on our assessment of the threat, the rapidity with which
relevant defensive technologies are changing, and the need to
evaluate further the potential role of missile defences as one
element of a broad-ranging defence response to missile proliferation.
4. This does not mean that we have ruled
out the acquisition of ballistic missile defences for the future.
Our options remain open, and we understand the role that missile
defences could play. Nationally, we continue to monitor developments
in the risks posed by ballistic missiles and in the technologies
available to counter them. We also fully support the ongoing NATO
Theatre Missile Defence Feasibility Studies, and have a long-standing
technical dialogue with the US on the subject.