July 7 2000
Greenpeace enters U.S. base to block missile test
By WILLIAM J. BROAD, New York Times


VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (Reuters) - The environmental group Greenpeace has sent several protesters into this military base in a move to prevent the $100 million test of a planned U.S. National Missile Defense system scheduled for later Friday.

Greenpeace said several teams of activists were sent to the launch site, where the U.S. military planned to shoot down a dummy missile warhead launched into space.

"According to the Air Force's own safety procedures the missile cannot be launched with people in that part of the base," said Greenpeace spokeswoman Mary Macnutt. Air Force officials were not available to comment.

Greenpeace declined to say how many protesters were in the base or how they entered. The activists were equipped with supplies and prepared to stay in the vicinity for several days.

The environmental and anti-nuclear group also sailed a Dutch ship Thursday toward an area declared off-limits, in another effort to block the test.

The 164-foot Dutch vessel Arctic Sunrise, with 23 passengers aboard, was headed Thursday toward waters designated a "hazard zone" by the U.S. Air Force, which mandates the area be clear of ships prior to the test. The test is part of a U.S. plan to build a limited missile defense system, a move opposed by Russia and China and which has spurred concern from Europe.

Weather permitting, a Minuteman missile with a dummy warhead is scheduled to be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base toward the Pacific Marshall Islands.

A U.S. "hit-to-kill" weapon will be fired atop its own rocket from Kwajalein Atoll 4,300 miles away about 20 minutes after the Vandenberg launch in an attempt to maneuver, intercept and smash into the "enemy" warhead 144 miles above Earth.

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