U.S. tests missile defense after North Korean ballistic launch

By Allen Cone  |  July 30, 2017 at 12:25 PM
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July 30 (UPI) -- The United States said it successfully tested its missile defense system in the Pacific Ocean on Sunday, two days after North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Also Sunday, North Korea warned it will "respond with firm action" if the United States continues sanctions and "military adventures."

The U.S. Department of Defense said in a release the military tested the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system by launching a ballistic missile from a U.S. Air Force plane over the Pacific Ocean, tracking it from Kodiak, Alaska, and intercepting it from the ground in the state.

The test was part of an effort "to stay ahead of the evolving threat," said the U.S. Missile Defense Agency director, Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves.

"In addition to successfully intercepting the target, the data collected will allow the Missile Defense Agency to enhance the THAAD weapon system," he said.

This was the 15th test of the THAAD ground-based weapon system, which is designed to shoot down short-, medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

On Friday, North Korea launched its Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile that the nation said can reach most of the United States. The missile was launched from Mupyong-ni, and traveled about 620 miles before splashing down in the Sea of Japan, the Pentagon said in a statement.

On July 4, a test showed the missile had enough range to reach Alaska.

After North Korea's latest test, South Korean President Moon Jae-in asked U.S. Forces Korea to deploy four additional THAAD interceptor launchers at its new base in Seongju, south of Seoul.

U.S. forces sent two B-1 bombers from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam on a 10-hour round trip Saturday over the Korean Peninsula.

Also Saturday, the U.S. Eighth Army and South Korean army personnel conducted a second combined training event to exercise assets.

"We have a responsibility to our allies and our nation to showcase our unwavering commitment while planning for the worst-case scenario. If called upon, we are ready to respond with rapid, lethal, and overwhelming force at a time and place of our choosing," Gen. Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy, commander of the Pacific Air Forces, said in a statement.

North Korea said the United States should regard its latest test as a "grave warning," Pyongyang's Korean Central News Agency said in a statement.

"The U.S. needs to stop with its delusion of trying to harm us, by clearly understanding the strategic status of the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea], which soared up as the world's nuclear and missile power, and our military and peoples' strong will to revenge our enemies to destruction," the foreign military spokesman said.

"If the U.S. continues to frantically cling on to the so-called 'strong sanctions' and military adventures against us, we will respond with firm action of justice that we had already made clear."

North Korea said the "whole U.S. mainland is within reach."

If Friday's missile had been fired on a flatter, standard trajectory, it would have reached as far as New York and Boston, according to David Wright, a missile expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists, in an interview with CNN.

The latest test moves up the timetable of the nation launching a reliable nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile. Earlier last week, a U.S. official told CNN the United States believed North Korea would be able to launch such a missile by early 2018.

China, North Korea's ally, condemned the missile launch and asked Pyongyang to "stop taking actions that would escalate tensions" on the Korean Peninsula.

"The U.N. Security Council has clear regulations on North Korea's launch activities that use ballistic missile technologies. China is opposed to North Korea's launch activities in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions and against the will of the international community," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.

U.S. President Donald Trump criticized China and his predecessors Saturday night on Twitter.

"I am very disappointed in China," he posted on Twitter. "Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk. We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!"

Moscow and Beijing, in a joint statement, called on Washington to immediately halt deployment of THAAD in South Korea after North Korea's test earlier this month.

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