Pentagon delays missile test due to China tensions over Taiwan

Lloyd Austin
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a media briefing at the Pentagon on July 20, 2022.

The Pentagon for a second time will hold off on a planned intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test launch amid increased tensions with China over Taiwan, the White House confirmed Thursday. 

“A long-planned Minuteman III ICBM test, scheduled for this week, has been rescheduled for the near future,” John Kirby, the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, told reporters at the White House daily briefing.  

“As China engages in destabilizing military exercises around Taiwan, the United State is demonstrating instead the behavior of a responsible nuclear power by reducing the risks of miscalculation and misperception.”  

The decision comes as China earlier on Thursday fired missiles into the Taiwan Strait and deployed planes and warships in the area. The activity is part of Chinese wargames to last through Sunday in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) visit to the island earlier this week.  

The trip sparked Beijing’s rage, as it views the self-governing island as its territory under its “One China” policy.  

The U.S., meanwhile, accepts the One China policy but has pursued strategic ambiguity toward Taiwan, committing to aiding the island in defending itself against Beijing. 

This is the second delay for the Minuteman III test. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in early March ordered a planned test to be pushed back to cool tensions with Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. 

Minuteman III ICBMs, located in underground silos in five Western states, are tested several times a year and can be ready to launch in minutes should the president order it.   

Prior to the latest delay, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, the Air Force was planning to fire an unarmed missile from Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif., to land in the waters around the Marshall Islands, a former U.S. territory.  

Kirby later added that the test was not canceled and could take place in “a couple of weeks,” saying “it’s not being postponed for an exorbitant amount of time.” He added it only was delayed “in light and in context of the tensions that we’re seeing right now, and they’re pretty escalated, . . . [the] temperature’s pretty high.” 

House Armed Services Committee ranking member Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) was quick to criticize the Biden administration’s decision to delay the test. In a statement, Rogers said the postponement “hurts our readiness and will only invite further aggression by our adversaries.” 

Kirby, however, several times stressed that the postponement will “not in any way” impact U.S. nuclear modernization or readiness. 

Tags China-Taiwan tensions John Kirby Lloyd Austin Lloyd Austin Mike Rogers Mike Rogers missile test Nancy Pelosi US-China relations
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