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Kerry: 2018 Missile Interceptors Fielding in Poland 'On Target'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday said an Obama administration plan to field next-generation missile defense systems in Poland in the coming years is "absolutely on target."

Speaking in Warsaw, Kerry told journalists the evolving security dynamics in Syria and Iran have not impacted U.S. plans to deploy in 2018 Standard Missile 3 Block 2A interceptors near the Baltic Sea coast in Redzikowo in accordance with the U.S. "phased adaptive approach" for European missile defense. Noting that U.S. and Romanian officials recently broke ground on a sister interceptor site in Romania that is slated to become operational in 2015, the secretary said "we intend to provide for the next phase by 2018."

"That is our plan and nothing has changed in that at this point in time," said Kerry, according to a press transcript.  "I don't foresee it changing at this point." The U.S. foreign-policy chief was in Warsaw for talks on a range of bilateral security and economic issues with this Polish counterpart, Radoslaw Sikorski.

Polish officials are somewhat sensitive about the issue of alterations to plans on missile defense-cooperation with the United States. Twice in recent years, Washington reversed course on plans to field sophisticated interceptors in Poland. In 2009, the Obama administration announced it was canceling a Bush-era plan to around 2015 field 10 long-range Ground Based Interceptors on Polish territory and instead would field a different model of interceptor -- the Standard Missile 3 Block 2B. But then in 2013, the United States declared it would not pursue development of the Block 2B, which was aimed at targeting intercontinental-ballistic missiles, and would just field Block 2A missiles in Poland. The latter weapon is designed to target intermediate-range missiles.

"Poland is a very important part of the European phased-adaptive approach on NATO missile defense," Kerry said.

The United States and NATO are pursuing an alliance-wide missile shield capable of defeating medium-range ballistic missiles fired from the Middle East. Russia opposes the effort, seeing it as a threat to the strategic nuclear balance on the continent.

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