Jan. 21, 2004 – In a move which critics contend could lead to an international arms race, Australian Prime Minister John Howard has proposed that Australia join the US â€œSon of Star Warsâ€� missile defense system.
Howard met with the US chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, in Sydney last Friday to discuss a wide range of joint military topics, including Australiaâ€™s acquisition of the controversial missile program.
Critics of the program have pointed out that any country using the missile program as its first line of defense may consider the option of launching a nuclear strike on its neighbours without fear of retribution.
In an official press release, Australian Democrats Acting Leader, Senator Allison, criticized Howard for â€œrapidly turning over our foreign policy to US control, endangering Australiaâ€™s security and independence. Australia is becoming Americaâ€™s 51st stateâ€¦The many millions of dollars wasted on this flawed and dangerous programme would be far better spent on alleviating serious global problems such as famine and disease.â€�
Howard has also attracted criticism from a wide range of community groups such as the Australian Medical Association for the Prevention Of War (MAPW), whose vice-president, Dr. Gillian Deakin has stated that the security of Australians would be put at risk should Australia choose to join the shield system.
However the systemâ€™s very effectiveness has been called into question by the Union of Concerned Scientists â€” an American independent alliance of over 100,000 concerned scientists and citizens â€” who say that the missile shield will only be effective against small scale nuclear attacks and would not be able to prevent a massive nuclear strike.
â€œThe logical response from someone imagining there is a defence system aimed to destroy their missiles is to build many more intercontinental or ballistic missiles to overwhelm any systemâ€¦This is very likely to lead to a massive arms race," Deakin told Australiaâ€™s ABC.
Senator Chris Evans, Australiaâ€™s Opposition Shadow Defence Minister, told The 7.30 Report, â€œthe threat to Australia of missile attack is very low and yet we're apparently signing a blank check to be involved in a missile defence system which we don't know the cost of, we don't know the Australian involvement and we have no idea where it will lead us.â€�
However, Prime Minister Howard has defended his discussions saying that it would be â€œrecklessly negligentâ€� not to proceed with the program and expects a memorandum of understanding on Australiaâ€™s involvement in the missile program to be signed between the two countries.