The U.S. military launched an unarmed nuclear-capable missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 4:13 am ET Wednesday (6:13pm AEST), right on the heels of North Korea’s latest missile test overnight. U.S.-based missile tests are scheduled months, if not years, in advance, but the timing is one hell of a coincidence.
The Air Force’s Minuteman III missile travelled roughly 6,800km from California over the Pacific Ocean and landed near the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, according to an Air Force press release. Back in May, the U.S. had a similar coincidence, conducting a missile test just 10 minutes after North Korea’s test.
Video of the U.S. launch was uploaded to the U.S. military’s media distribution channel DVIDS and is available on YouTube.
The details of North Korea’s latest missile test are still sketchy, but CBS News reports that the missile travelled 450km and was launched roughly 900km into the air. The missile was reportedly launched from the eastern part of the country near a town called Wonsan and landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
Early reports indicate that North Korea may have been testing a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), a relatively new capability for the authoritarian country, and the BBC reports that it’s the longest range missile that North Korea has tested in a very long time.
The US assessed that the missile was not fired from a submarine although the tested missile is designed to function as a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), the US official, who was familiar with the situation, said.
The missile was launched toward the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan, Wednesday morning, South Korea’s military said. While North Korea has launched from an underwater platform before, it is the first time it has done so since talks with US President Donald Trump.
But, again, the timing of the U.S. launch is likely a coincidence, despite the fact that the U.S. Air Force makes it clear American tests are a “visible message” to “dissuade potential aggressors.”
“The flight test program demonstrates one part of the operational capability of the ICBM weapon system,” Col. Omar Colbert, 576th Flight Test Squadron commander, said in a press release.
“The Minuteman III is nearly 50 years old, and continued test launches are essential in ensuring its reliability until the mid-2030s when the Ground Base Strategic Deterrent is fully in place,” Colbert continued. “Most importantly, this visible message of national security serves to assure our partners and dissuade potential aggressors.”
North Korea completed its first test of an ICBM in July of 2017 and has shown no signs of slowing down development of its nuclear arsenal. President Donald Trump met with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un personally, but it didn’t stop Kim from doing what he’s always done.
North Korea and the United States had reportedly agreed to a new round of disarmament talks just one day before North Korea’s latest test and it’s not clear what kind of impact this pair of launches will have on the discussions. But whatever happens, it seems pretty clear that the world is stuck with a nuclear-armed North Korea.