Ballistic Missiles

Defence written question – answered on 6th November 2001.

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Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Shadow Spokesperson (Defence)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence

(1) what arms control measures he proposes to take to tackle the potential threat from ballistic missiles; and if he will make a statement;

(2) what defensive measures are available to tackle the potential threat from ballistic missiles; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence

We currently assess that as of today there is no significant ballistic missile threat to the UK. We do, however, continue to monitor developments closely. We also remain concerned by the potential ballistic missile threat to our armed forces when deployed to certain parts of the world. We believe it is important to tackle the potential threat from weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery with a comprehensive strategy that encompasses diplomacy, non-proliferation, export control, counter-proliferation, conflict prevention, deterrence and defensive measures. We will continue to work closely with our allies, partners and friends in all of these areas.

Beyond our wide-ranging arms control efforts to tackle the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, we have been working closely to establish a set of international norms dealing specifically with ballistic missiles. As a first step, a draft International Code of Conduct (ICOC) on ballistic missiles, based on an original text prepared by the UK, has been developed by members of the Missile Technology Control Regime. This draft will now be negotiated through an open multilateral process with a view to eventual signature during 2002. We hope that it will form the basis of a new international consensus against the destabilising spread of ballistic missiles, and we strongly support efforts to gain wide adherence to it.

We have a range of capabilities for passive defence of deployed forces against weapons of mass destruction delivered by ballistic missiles. Detection, identification, warning and reporting of possible attacks, physical protection, hazard management and medical countermeasures are all key elements of our force posture. We continue to believe it is premature to decide on acquiring a specific active ballistic missile defence capability, either for defence of the UK or deployed forces. This is based on our assessment of the threat, the rapidity with which 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. We will continue to support NATO work in this area, as well as our own national work and bilateral dialogue with the US. Our future options remain open.

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