Air Force tests ICBM after delay over tensions with China

·2 min read

The Air Force on Tuesday said it had successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) nearly two weeks after postponing the launch amid increased tensions with China over Taiwan.

The unarmed Minuteman III, which is capable of holding a nuclear payload, was launched at 12:49 a.m. Pacific Time from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., with its reentry vehicle landing roughly 4,200 miles away near the Marshall Islands, according to a statement from Air Force Global Strike Command.

The statement said the test demonstrated U.S. readiness and reliability, as well as the “expertise of our strategic weapons maintenance personnel and of our missile crews who maintain an unwavering vigilance to defend the homeland.”

The Air Force also stressed that the launch was part of routine and periodic activities and “not the result of current world events,” as the military has previously run such tests more than 300 times.

In early August, the Pentagon held off for a second time a planned ICBM test launch after China held live fire exercises in the Taiwan Strait in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) visit to the island.

Beijing launched the war games as a message to Washington, which has pursued strategic ambiguity toward Taiwan and is committed to aiding the independently governed island in defending itself against China.

China, however, considers Taiwan part of its territory and has repeatedly refused to rule out using force to bring it under control of the mainland.

At the time the United States postponed the test launch, the Biden administration said it was demonstrating “the behavior of a responsible nuclear power by reducing the risks of miscalculation and misperception,” according to John Kirby, the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications.

Minuteman III ICBMs, located in underground silos in five Western states, are tested several times a year, have a range of more than 6,000 miles and can travel up to 15,000 miles per hour.

The decision to go through with the test less than two weeks after holding off seems to indicate that the administration is confident China will not further escalate the situation beyond its war games.

Beijing on Monday held additional military exercises near Taiwan, following another visit of a group of U.S. lawmakers to the island.

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