Pentagon restarts key nuclear missile tests

Air Force officials will launch a non-nuclear version of the missile to gather "valuable data regarding the accuracy and reliability of the weapon system," according to Col. Richard Pagliuco, commander of the test squadron at Barksdale. 

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Service officials from Barksdale, as well as nuclear weapons crews from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, will also participate in Tuesday's tests, according to the command statement. 

The data derived from the missile launch will go toward maintaining the Pentagon's Minuteman III missile stockpiles into 2030, command officials said. 

Pentagon leaders had scheduled the critical missile test in April, but Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called off the drill at the last minute. 

The cancellation was due to rising tensions between the United States and North Korea, whose aggressive rhetoric had ratcheted up the threat of war breaking out on the peninsula. 

At the time, North Korea has declared a “state of war” with the South, threatened the U.S. with nuclear attack and blocked access to a joint economic zone with Seoul.

In response, the United States deployed a missile defense system to Guam and moved Navy ships off the Korean peninsula. 

The U.S. and South Korea have also continued to mount military exercises, while the White House has urged the North to tamp down its rhetoric and return to talks over the country’s nuclear program.

Earlier this month, the Pentagon announced a "provocation pause" between Pyongyang and Washington and its allies in the Pacific, bringing stability back to the region. 

"A range of factors," including pressure from China and other regional powers, prompted Pyongyang's decision to "ratchet back" from its recent military buildup that roiled the Asia-Pacific earlier this year, Pentagon spokesman George Little told reporters at the Pentagon on May 5. 

Beijing, in particular, "made some helpful statements" to put a stop to North Korea's military escalation, Little added. 

He declined to go into details as to what efforts China took in an attempt to keep tensions on the peninsula from boiling over.