[FOUNTAIN]Missiles Overshadow AIDS

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[FOUNTAIN]Missiles Overshadow AIDS

The Bush administration plans to allocate $329 billion for the defense budget next year and has requested approval of congress. The amount is four times larger than total domestic budget. Of the $329 billion, $7 billion is allocated to the missile defense system. The money will be spent to build a new missile defense development center in Alaska and to develop a new rocket for a ground intercept missile and a high-speed intercept missile that can be launched from the sea.

The purpose of the development of the missile defense system is to protect the United States and its allies from a missile attack from rogue states such as Iraq or North Korea. Donald Rumsfeld, secretary of defense, recently explained the defense budget for next year to the House of Representatives' military committee and said that North Korea is close to completing development of an intercontinental ballistic missile. In the near future, North Korea will be able to launch a missile that can strike North America. Just as Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor had seemed impossible before it actually occurred, North Korea's missile attack on North America seems possible. So, the administration will spend $7 billion on the missile defense plan.

In 14th century Europe, one third of the population was wiped out because of the black plague. Now, AIDS is considered the most serious epidemic of humanity after the plague, and last year three million people died because of AIDS. Approximately 36 million people carry the HIV virus, which causes AIDS. Since AIDS was discovered 20 years ago, the disease has killed 22 million people. That figure is twice the number of people who died during World War I.

The first phase of development for the missile defense system is expected to cost $60 billion. The figure including what the allies will spend will be astronomical amount. Whether there will be casualties of the missiles fired by so-called rogue states is not known. Which is more urgent and serious? A missile defense system or fighting AIDS?

Last Wednesday, the final day of the United Nation's General Assembly meeting, the Secretary-General Kofi Annan declared a war against AIDS. It would cost $7 billion to $10 billion annually to extend lives of AIDS patients, start AIDS prevention programs worldwide and to fight the deadly disease. If the United States decides to redirect the money allocated for defense missile system to AIDS prevention, it will save humanity from the deadly disease. The United States demonstrated benevolence when it announced it would donate $1.3 billion to AIDS prevention funds. Compared to the budget allocated for the missile defense system, that a teeny-weeny amount.

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Bae Myung-bok

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