The U.S. will conduct a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile test Wednesday, according to an announcement from the Air Force.
The test launch from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base will involve an unarmed Minuteman III ICBM, and is scheduled to take place between 12 a.m. and 6 a.m. PST. The purpose of the test is to “verify the status of our national nuclear force and to demonstrate our national nuclear capabilities,” Col. John Moss, 30th Space Wing commander, who will order the launch, said in a statement.
The scheduled test launch comes amid escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula over Pyongyang’s recent missile tests and concerns that it is about to conduct a sixth nuclear test. On Tuesday, North Korea celebrated the anniversary of its military’s founding with a show of force and a live-fire artillery drill. The same day, a U.S. nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Michigan, docked in the South Korean port city of Busan, according to the Associated Press, and the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group is headed toward the peninsula.
On Wednesday, South Korea announced it was deploying parts of the U.S. Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system, which has angered North Korea, China and Russia who consider it a security threat.
However, Wednesday’s launch was planned a year in advance and has no connection to North Korea or Kim Jong Un, a spokesperson for Air Force Global Strike Command told the Washington Examiner. The Minuteman launches reportedly happen about four times a year, the last being in February.