US missile defence shift not linked to Russia, says Pentagon
Washington: Washington's plans to abandon a key part of a European missile defence plan strongly opposed by Russia are "no way" linked to Moscow, a Pentagon official has said.
"The missile defence decisions Secretary (of Defense Chuck) Hagel announced were in no way about Russia," The New York Times quoted Pentagon spokesman George Little as saying.
Defense Secretary Hagel announced earlier the US was abandoning the fourth part of its Eastern European missile defence plan, stationing SM-3 IIB interceptors in Poland by 2022, as the focus will be shifted to threats from North Korea.
James Miller, principal deputy under secretary for policy at the Department of Defense later clarified: "In the fourth phase, in the previous plan, we would have added some additional type of interceptors - the so-called SM-3 IIB - would have been added to the mix in Poland."
"We no longer intend to add them to the mix, but we'll continue to have the same number of deployed interceptors in Poland that will provide coverage for all of NATO in Europe."
Analysts said the changes in the US missile defence plan could open the door to another round of talks between the US and Russia on nuclear arms reductions.
Meanwhile, a senior administration official told The New York Times on the condition of anonymity: "There's still an absolutely firm commitment to European missile defence, which is not about Russia; it's about Iran these days."
"If there are side benefits that accrue with Russia, so be it. But that wasn't a primary driver," the official said.