It was 23 years ago in an oval office speech (text), that President Reagan laid out his plan to create a shield to protect the United States from ballistic missiles. His Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) was widely derided by liberals who never met a weapons system they didn't want to get rid of.
The Soviet Union was so concerned with the possibilites offered by this defensive system that they desperately tried to get President Reagan to cancel it. At a summit meeting between President Reagan and Soviet Leader Gorbachev in Reykjavik Iceland, in October 1986, the Russians offered the United States the "deal of a lifetime" if only we would give up S.D.I.
Reagan refused and the meeting ended with disappointment, as you can clearly see in the above photo. (Reagan's statement describing the negotiations here.) History buffs may wish to view the Memorandum of Conversation (PDF).
Former Secretary of State, George Schultz has the behind the scenes story in this chapter from his memoirs provided online by the Margaret Thatcher Foundation.
It was Reagan's refusal to give up SDI in Reykjavik that is widely viewed as the final victory in winning the Cold War.
Reagan's Legacy: Missile Defense Activated to Counter North Korean Threat
Bill Gertz, writing in the June 20, Washington Times reports that the United States has turned the key activating the missile defense system that is a direct result of the efforts President Reagan began 23 years ago:
The Pentagon activated its new U.S. ground-based interceptor missile defense system, and officials announced yesterday that any long-range missile launch by North Korea would be considered a "provocative act."
Poor weather conditions above where the missile site was located by U.S. intelligence satellites indicates that an immediate launch is unlikely, said officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
However, intelligence officials said preparations have advanced to the point where a launch could take place within several days to a month.
Two Navy Aegis warships are patrolling near North Korea as part of the global missile defense and would be among the first sensors that would trigger the use of interceptors, the officials said yesterday.
The U.S. missile defense system includes 11 long-range interceptor missiles, including nine deployed at Fort Greeley, Alaska, and two at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The system was switched from test to operational mode within the past two weeks, the officials said.
One senior Bush administration official told The Washington Times that an option being considered would be to shoot down the Taepodong missile with responding interceptors.
Thank you President Reagan! Without your vision and leadership we would have less defensive capability to respond to new threats such as that posed by North Korea.