May 30 (UPI) -- The U.S. military said it shot down a mock ballistic missile in the first test of its ground-based intercept system Tuesday, simulating a scenario if North Korea shoots a missile toward the United States.
The Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency said the interceptor, launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, "destroyed the target in a direct collision" over the Pacific Ocean.
"The intercept of a complex, threat-representative ICBM target is an incredible accomplishment ... and a critical milestone for this program," MDA Director Vice Adm. Jim Syring said.
"This system is vitally important to the defense of our homeland, and this test demonstrates that we have a capable, credible deterrent against a very real threat."
Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said North Korea was a factor in, but not the primary reason for the test.
"North Korea is obviously one of the reasons why we have this capability," Davis said.
Originally scheduled for last year, the exercise was delayed due to engineering changes.
Pyongyang has performed nine missile launch tests this year, including one Monday involving a short-range ballistic missile.
"North Korea has shown great disrespect North Korea has shown great disrespect for their neighbor, China, by shooting off yet another ballistic missile," he wrote.
North Korea has also tested shooting multiple missiles in an effort to misdirect U.S. defenses.
In Tuesday's test, the Pentagon shot down a single missile. The Defense Department said it will continue to evaluate other data to determine how the system performed.