Dáil Éireann - Volume 634 - 21 March, 2007

Written Answers. - International Agreements.

Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the proposed plans by the United States to build anti-missile shields in Poland and the Czech Republic that were discussed at the March 2007 EU meeting of Foreign Ministers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10386/07]

Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the implications of the reported talks between the US and member states of the European Union aimed at establishing missile bases. [10521/07]

  Mr. D. Ahern:I propose to take Questions Nos. 125 and 176 together.

We are aware of reports that the US has recently approached Poland and the Czech Republic to deploy elements of its anti-missile defence system there. At the March meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council, the question was raised briefly. The matter was not discussed in any detail. The Euro[239] pean Union does not have an agreed position on missile defence, a matter on which it has no competence as regards the decisions of individual member states and which is more appropriate for discussion within NATO.

From a national perspective, however, we believe that the development of missile defence systems can have many negative consequences, including creating or aggravating missile arms races. It is my belief that the most effective way to tackle missile proliferation and the attendant threats is to engage in serious work in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation. Ireland has always played a very active role in such efforts, particularly in the promotion of nuclear disarmament within the framework of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), and elsewhere. We believe that further reductions in nuclear arsenals, with the aim of their total elimination, offers the best approach to address security concerns in this area. There is a risk that development of missile defence systems could induce some countries to expand their missile arsenals or to develop new missiles that might better penetrate defences.

The question of missile defence was examined in the report issued last year by the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, chaired by Dr Hans Blix. The report suggested that “the potential value of these systems is not in proportion to the risks they pose to the international community, including the states possessing such systems.” I agree with the Blix Report recommendation that states should not develop missile defence systems without first seeking to remove the missile threat by negotiation. In the event of systems being developed, they should be accompanied by confidence-building measures to lower the risk to international peace and security.

The reported purpose of the US anti-missile defence system, insofar as it might be deployed in Europe, is to counter perceived missile threats from Iran and North Korea. This system, if introduced, however, has the potential to create a destabilising effect in the region. Last month, for example, President Putin of the Russian Federation, in a speech delivered in Munich, expressed his unease with the defence system and questioned the US explanation of whom the shield was meant to deter. There have also been reports that some of his officials have suggested that Russia might consider withdrawal from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty if deployment so close to Russia’s border proceeds. Chancellor Merkel has also made her concerns known.