US conducts missile test delayed by Chinese drills

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile is launched during an operational test at 2:10 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, U.S., August 2, 2017. U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Ian Dudley/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

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WASHINGTON, Aug 16 (Reuters) – The U.S. military said on Tuesday it had carried out a test of a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile that had been delayed to avoid escalating tensions with Beijing during China’s show of force near Taiwan earlier this month.

China has deployed dozens of planes and fired live missiles into the Taiwan Strait after US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the self-governing island. China considers Taiwan to be part of its territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under its control.

The test showed “the readiness of US nuclear forces and provides confidence in the lethality and effectiveness of the nation’s nuclear deterrent,” according to a US military statement.

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The re-entry vehicle traveled approximately 4,200 miles (6,760 km) and was launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

The military said about 300 such tests had already been carried out and it was not the result of any specific world event.

The test suggests that Washington is less concerned about the escalation of the situation around Taiwan in the short term at least.

President Joe Biden’s administration has said it will continue to conduct routine air and naval operations in the Taiwan Strait in the coming weeks.

China’s military said it carried out more drills near Taiwan on Monday as a group of US lawmakers visited the Chinese-claimed island and met with President Tsai Ing-wen, who said her government was determined to maintain stability.

The US military also canceled a test of its Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile in April. The delay was aimed at reducing nuclear tensions with Russia during the ongoing war in Ukraine.

The nuclear-capable Minuteman III, manufactured by Boeing Co. (BA.N), is key to the US military’s strategic arsenal. The missile has a range of over 6,000 miles (9,660 km+) and can travel at speeds of around 15,000 miles per hour (24,000 km/h).

The missiles are scattered in reinforced underground silos operated by launch teams.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in February that his country’s nuclear forces should be put on high alert, raising fears that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could lead to nuclear war. But US officials said they had seen no reason so far to change Washington’s nuclear alert levels.

Russia and the United States possess by far the largest arsenals of nuclear warheads after the Cold War that divided the world for much of the 20th century, pitting the West against the Soviet Union and its allies.

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Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Peter Graff

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Idrees Ali

Thomson Reuters

National Security Correspondent focusing on the Pentagon in Washington DC Reports on US military activity and operations around the world and the impact they are having. Reported from over two dozen countries, including Iraq, Afghanistan and much of the Middle East, Asia and Europe. From Karachi, Pakistan.

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