The U.S. Air Force launched an intercontinental ballistic missile from California on Wednesday as a symbolic warning to North Korea.
The Minuteman III missile test was launched from Vandenberg Air Force base just after midnight to show the country’s “effectiveness, readiness and accuracy,” and demonstrate “national nuclear capabilities.”
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The Minuteman III missile test comes amid rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula, with a carrier strike group led by the USS Carl Vinson approaching North Korean waters. However, a spokeswoman for the Air Force Global Strike Command says the test was planned in advance and is not connected with the situation in North Korea, and the launches happen on regular basis, according to the Washington Examiner.
The launch is scheduled on Wednesday between 12:01am to 6:01am (0701GMT to 1301GMT) from North Vandenberg Air Force Base, according to the 30th Space Wing, which is conducting the test.
“These Minuteman launches are essential to verify the status of our national nuclear force and to demonstrate our national nuclear capabilities,” the commander of the unit, Colonel John Moss, said in a statement.
The test launch is aimed at validating and verifying “the effectiveness, readiness, and accuracy of the weapon system,” according to the Air Force Global Strike Command.
Despite the fact that the US military denied all connections of the launch with the tensions between Washington and Pyongyang, the drills have raised concerns and received criticism from the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. The organization accused the US of a “clear double standard,” and advocated for “diplomacy rather than military provocations,” said the foundation president, David Krieger, as cited by the Los Angeles Times.
“It views its own tests as justified and useful, while it views the tests of North Korea as threatening and destabilizing,” Krieger said, also warning of increasing danger of such moves.
He also tweeted that nuclear-capable missile tests are simply a waste of money.
Testing #nuclear-capable missiles is a way to send a message while wasting money. US is testing again on April 26th.
— David Krieger (@DkriegerNAPF) April 24, 2017
However, the “lethal and ready” capability of the ICBM was praised as a signal for the US enemies following its successful simulated electronic firing on April 11.
“The Simulated Electronic Launch of a Minuteman III ICBM is a signal to the American people, our allies, and our adversaries that our ICBM capability is safe, secure, lethal and ready,” the 625th Strategic Operations Squadron commander, Lt. Col. Deane Konowicz, said in a statement.
Minuteman III ballistic missiles were initially deployed in 1970 and are approaching the end of their useful lifespan of 60 years. Washington has recently launched a massive trillion-dollar program to modernize, support, and maintain its nuclear air-land-sea triad, which also includes Ohio-class submarines and B-52 strategic bombers, over the next 30 years.