US test-launches ICBM as tensions rise with North Korea

WASHINGTON — The U.S. military successfully test-launched an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile from California early Wednesday, according to an Air Force spokesman — just days after North Korea's second test of an ICBM.

The unarmed Minuteman III missile was launched at 2:10 a.m. PT from Vandenberg Air Force Base, about 130 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

An Air Force statement said that the test was not a response to recent North Korean actions, but shows that America's nuclear enterprise is "safe, secure, effective and ready to be able to deter, detect and defend against attacks on the United States and its allies."

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A look at North Korea's July 2017 missile test
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A look at North Korea's July 2017 missile test
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un guides the second test-fire of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) Hwasong-14 in this undated picture provided by KCNA in Pyongyang on July 29, 2017. KCNA via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS.� TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) Hwasong-14 is pictured during its second test-fire in this undated picture provided by KCNA in Pyongyang on July 29, 2017. KCNA via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS.� TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People watch news report showing North Korea's Hwasong-14 missile launch on electronic screen at Pyongyang station, North Korea in this photo taken by Kyodo on July 29, 2017. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN.
The Central Committee and the Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party of Korea hold a banquet at the Mokran House in celebration of the second successful test-fire of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) Hwasong-14, in this undated picture provided by KCNA in Pyongyang on July 30, 2017. KCNA/via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS.
The Central Committee and the Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party of Korea hold a banquet at the Mokran House in celebration of the second successful test-fire of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) Hwasong-14, in this undated picture provided by KCNA in Pyongyang on July 30, 2017. KCNA/via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS.
Coverage of an ICBM missile test is displayed on a screen in a public square in Pyongyang on July 29, 2017. Kim Jong-Un boasted of North Korea's ability to strike any target in the US after a second ICBM test that weapons experts said on July 29 could even bring New York into range - in a potent challenge to President Donald Trump. / AFP PHOTO / Kim Won-Jin (Photo credit should read KIM WON-JIN/AFP/Getty Images)
A man and woman watch coverage of an ICBM missile test displayed on a screen in a public square in Pyongyang on July 29, 2017. Kim Jong-Un boasted of North Korea's ability to strike any target in the US after a second ICBM test that weapons experts said on July 29 could even bring New York into range - in a potent challenge to President Donald Trump. / AFP PHOTO / Kim Won-Jin (Photo credit should read KIM WON-JIN/AFP/Getty Images)
In this photo taken on July 29, 2017, a woman holding a mock rifle stands at a bus stop in Pyongyang. North Korea said July 30 its latest ICBM test was a 'warning' targeting the US for its efforts to slap new sanctions on Pyongyang and threatened a counter-strike if provoked militarily by Washington. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
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The ICBM was equipped with a test reentry vehicle, which officials said showed it traveled about 4,200 miles to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

The operation was conducted by a team of Air Force Global Strike Command Airmen from the 90th Missile Wing, along with the 576th Flight Test Squadron and the 30th Space Wing stationed at Vandenberg.

"These test launches require the highest-degree of technical competence and commitment at every level," Col. Michael Hough, the 30th Space Wing commander and launch decision authority, said in a statement.

Air Force Global Strike Command has tested 299 Minuteman III ICBMs over the program's history. The Minuteman III's are the U.S. military's only land-based ICBMs. Another one was tested earlier this year in February from Vandenberg.

The U.S. military schedules four test-launches each fiscal year, with the actual schedule plotted out several years in advance — so it's unrelated to recent events, Air Force Capt. Michele Rollins, a spokesperson for the strike command, told CNBC.

Last week, North Korea tested an ICBM for the second time. The missile flew for 45 minutes and traveled more than 1,000 kilometers laterally, defense officials and analysts said. U.S. officials believe the missile broke up upon re-entering the atmosphere.

The United States and its allies flew supersonic bombers and fighter jets over the Korean Peninsula in a 10-hour show of force Sunday against North Korea following the country's latest ICBM launch.

The U.S. B-1 bombers first flew over Japanese airspace, where they were joined by two Japanese F-2 fighter jets, before flying over the Korean Peninsula with four South Korean F-15 fighter jets, U.S. Pacific Air Forces said in a statement.

The Air Force said the 10-hour mission was a direct response to North Korea's two ICBM tests this month, including the latest on Friday.

Analysts say the North's test Friday showed that a broader part of the mainland United States, including Los Angeles and Chicago, is now in range of Pyongyang's weapons.

Asked about possible U.S. military action against North Korea, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders reiterated on Tuesday that "all options are on the table" but the administration would not "broadcast what we're going to do."

The focus for the administration remains on stopping North Korea's nuclear program and halting their aggression, Sanders said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham said Tuesday that President Donald Trump has told him he's willing to go to war over North Korea's missile program if the rogue nation continues to aim ICBMs at America.

Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Norio Maruyama said he was unaware of the remarks, but that his country — a key ally of the U.S. — was in favor of the Trump administration's posture "using both words and action to show that all choices are on the table."

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