The Pentagon postponed a planned Minuteman ICBM test, citing Chinese exercises around Taiwan
Chinese military exercises off Taiwan prompted the US Air Force to postpone a test of its nuclear deterrent on Thursday.
A Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) was supposed to be launched on a test basis from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, but was put on hold, apparently to avoid stoking tensions with Beijing.
The delay was first reported by The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed Department of Defense officials. The newly appointed Pentagon spokesman, Air Force Brigadier General Patrick Ryder, will not assume the position until later this month.
“This is a long-planned test, but is being postponed to clear up any misunderstandings given the PRC’s actions around Taiwan,” the official told the WSJ, using an acronym for the People’s Republic of China.
Earlier in the day, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Eastern Theater Command launched intensive military drills in six areas all around the island, which included the use of a dozen hypersonic missiles . The drill was widely interpreted as a response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei earlier this week, which Beijing condemned as a provocation.
Taipei condemned the exercises as de facto “blockade of Taiwan’s airspace and sea”, and accused Beijing of leading “psychological warfare against Taiwan and its citizens.”
Known as “Journey of Glory” the Minuteman III test is performed every few months to assess the reliability of the missile. Thursday’s test was the second this year to be delayed due to world events.
Another test in early March was postponed to reduce disaster risk “Misinterpretation or miscommunication” with Russia on the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Moscow had placed its nuclear deterrent on high alert “aggressive statements” by NATO and the sanctions war of the US-led alliance against Russia.
While the March test was eventually canceled altogether, a US official told the WSJ that the August one could be delayed for up to ten days.