Reuters: The latest developments with Iran’s nuclear program reinforce the case for considering a U.S. missile shield to protect Europe from attacks, German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung said. By Louis Charbonneau
BERLIN (Reuters) – The latest developments with Iran’s nuclear program reinforce the case for considering a U.S. missile shield to protect Europe from attacks, German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung said.
“Precisely these latest developments also confirm that such protection makes sense,” Jung told Reuters in an interview earlier this week.
“Timely precautions must be taken against the foreseeable increase of the range of offensive missiles of certain problem states, even if it concerns long-term developments,” he said.
The minister avoided naming Iran directly but it was clear the countries he had in mind included Iran and North Korea — the “rogue states” Washington says the shield is designed to protect against.
Plans for the missile shield have angered Russia and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-left coalition partners.
But the comments by Jung, a member of Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), are among the strongest yet from a senior German official favoring discussion of the U.S. project.
Iran said on Monday it had begun industrial enrichment of uranium, a process the West fears Iran is mastering so that it can make atomic bombs. Tehran says its program is peaceful and will only be used to generate electricity.
The United States wants to build a radar station in the Czech Republic and a missile battery in Poland to defend against possible missile attacks from what it calls “rogue states” such as Iran or North Korea.
Russia sees the missile plan, which NATO has been discussing since 2002, as an encroachment on its former sphere of influence and says it could undermine global non-proliferation.
Senior members of Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD), who rule in coalition with the CDU, fear it could trigger a new arms race between Russia and the West.
Jung said it was crucial to involve Russia in discussions as the United States is doing now. He also said he was optimistic an agreement could be reached with Moscow.
“I am convinced that getting a consensus in NATO and, I’ll emphasize this again, bringing Russia into the discussion is the right way to go,” he said.
IRAN: YEARS AWAY FROM A BOMB
Asked about estimates of when Iran could possess a nuclear weapon, Jung said Tehran was far away from that point, if getting an atom bomb truly is its goal.
“According to expert assessments, Iran is years away from that point,” he said.
Jung said it was possible to stop Iran through diplomacy.
“We can do everything possible to prevent Iran from successfully combining long-range missiles and atomic weapons. And I’m very hopeful that we — the United States, Europe, Russia and China — can achieve this diplomatically.”
Social Democrat Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has been one of the most outspoken critics of the missile shield, saying Washington was seeking to protect against non-existent threats.
Jung said the threat from deadly weapons was all too real.
“The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems is developing into a potential threat for Germany as well. An increasing number of countries is trying to get them,” Jung said.
Nor is there is a split on the issue in the government, which already agreed it should be discussed in NATO, Jung said.
NATO defense ministers will discuss the missile shield at a meeting in Brussels in June though no decision is expected.