U.S., Czech Republic start talks on missile shield
( RIA Novosti) - The United States and the Czech Republic will start negotiations over the possible deployment of a missile defense radar on Czech territory, the CTK news agency reported Thursday.
The U.S. announced plans in January to deploy interceptor missiles in Poland and a missile defense radar in the Czech Republic as part of its missile shield aimed to counter possible threats from "the rogue states" of Iran or North Korea.
The first round of talks, which will take place at the Czech Defense Ministry May 10-11, will discuss an agreement covering the deployment of the U.S. missile radar in the Czech Republic. The second round, planned for May 22 at the republic's Foreign Ministry, will focus on the radar's construction, maintenance, and security.
"Further negotiations will be held in the U.S.," said Zuzana Opletalova, the Czech Foreign Ministry spokesperson.
In early June, U.S. President George Bush will arrive in Prague to discuss the issue with the Czech authorities. The U.S. wants to secure a final answer on the deployment of the system in the Czech Republic by the yearend.
All the negotiations are expected to last a few months, and the Czech government has already received a draft project agreement from the U.S. outlining the deployment of military personnel on Czech soil.
The construction of the missile defense shield will cost U.S. taxpayers $260 million and the cost of the deployment is estimated at $550 million, CTK said referring to the U.S. Missile Defense Agency. Czech companies could join the construction and servicing of the radar later.
The U.S. also plans to modernize a radar station currently deployed in the Marshall Islands and relocate it to the Czech Republic at a cost of $125 million, including testing the radar and setting up the computer system. About 200 U.S. military personnel will be deployed in the Czech Republic to service the missile system.
A survey conducted by the Czech pollster Ipsos-Tambor showed that 55.8% of Czech respondents oppose the deployment of the U.S. shield in the republic and 28.2% support the idea. A total of 52.1% of those against the deployment plans said the republic could be a potential U.S. target.
Russia has repeatedly condemned U.S. plans for a missile shield in Europe, warning it could be a "destabilizing factor" and could threaten national security.