The Pentagon has delayed a long-planned intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test for a second time amid increased tension with China over Taiwan, the White House confirmed on Thursday.
The Air Force initially planned to conduct the Minuteman III test launch this week, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said, adding that postponing the event is “the responsible thing to do” in order to avoid escalating tensions with Beijing during China’s show of force near Taiwan.
“As China engages in destabilizing military exercises around Taiwan, the United States is demonstrating instead the behavior of a responsible nuclear power by reducing the risks of miscalculation and misperception,” Kirby said.
“We do not believe it is in our interest, Taiwan’s interest, the region’s interests, to allow tensions to escalate further,” he added. “Which is why a long-planned Minuteman III ICBM test scheduled for this week has been rescheduled for the near future.”
Kirby stressed the postponement will not last long and it won’t have an impact on the nation’s nuclear readiness. A new date has already been set for a new test, he noted, without saying when exactly.
It’s the second delay for the Minuteman III test after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in March directed the Air Force to postpone a scheduled launch. That test was pushed back in order to lower tensions with Russia over its attack on Ukraine.
Prior to officials postponing the latest test, which was first reported by The Wall Street Journal, the Air Force was due to fire an unarmed missile from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California, to splash down around the Marshall Islands, one of 16 island nation’s that are part of a fisheries treaty agreement between the United States and Pacific Island countries.
Between 1946 and 1958, the United States carried out 67 nuclear tests in what is now the northern Marshall Islands, according to the Department of State.
The nuclear-capable Minuteman III, made by Boeing Co., is key to the U.S. military’s strategic arsenal. The missile has a range of 6,000-plus miles and can travel at a speed of approximately 15,000 miles per hour.
Approximately 400 of the missiles are located at Air Force bases in Wyoming, Montana, and North Dakota.
The Pentagon’s move to delay the test came as China deployed scores of planes and fired live missiles in the Taiwan Strait on Thursday, a day after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) made a trip to the self-ruled island. China claims Taiwan is part of its territory and has never renounced using force to bring it under its control.
After Pelosi’s trip, the Chinese regime announced that it is imposing sanctions against the high-ranking U.S. official in retaliation for her defying Beijing.
A foreign ministry spokesperson for the communist regime said in a statement on Aug. 5 that the sanction targets Pelosi and her direct relatives, without specifying the sanctions.
Reuters contributed to this report.