The United States has postponed a scheduled test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) to avoid increasing tensions with China as the Asian superpower flexes its military muscle around Taiwan following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby confirmed Thursday that the test would be delayed for “a short period of time.”
“As China engages in destabilizing military exercises around Taiwan, the United States is demonstrating, instead, the behavior of a responsible nuclear power by reducing the risks of miscalculation,” Kirby told reporters, adding that President Biden and his national security team “believes that a strong, confident, capable nuclear power can afford to wait a couple of weeks for a test to make it clear — not just in word, but in deed — how serious we are when we say we have no interest in escalating the tensions.”
The Wall Street Journal first reported that the test — set to take place at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California this week — would be pushed back.
“This is a long-planned test but it is being postponed to remove any misunderstandings given the PRC’s [People’s Republic of China] actions around Taiwan,” a defense official told the paper.
The test – known as a “Glory Trip” – is reportedly scheduled multiple times a year in order to assess the reliability of the ICBM.
A similar test was canceled in March, in the weeks after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
It is unclear how long the delay will last; however, one official told The Journal the test may be pushed back ten days.
The decision comes as Beijing holds its largest military drills directed at Taiwan since 1995 in response to Pelosi’s trip earlier this week.
On Thursday, the People’s Liberation Army conducted “precision missile strikes” around the island after announcing exercises by its navy, air force and other departments in six zones — simulating a blockade of Taiwan.
Japan’s defense minister said five missiles fired by China landed in Tokyo’s Exclusive Economic Zone off Hateruma, an island far south of Japan’s main islands.
Nobuo Kishi said Japan had protested the missile landings to China as “serious threats to Japan’s national security and the safety of the Japanese people.”
Japan’s Defense Ministry also speculated that four Chinese missiles flew over Taipei, the capital city, and crossed the mainland, according to a statement the Japanese Embassy in Washington posted on Twitter. Taiwan’s Defense Ministry did not deny the claim, saying that the flight path was “outside the atmosphere and is not harmful to the vast area on the ground it flies over.”
China fired long-range explosive projectiles, the Eastern Theater Command of the People’s Liberation Army, the ruling Communist Party’s military wing, said in a statement. It also said it carried out multiple conventional missile launches in three different areas in the eastern waters off Taiwan. An accompanying graphic on state broadcaster CCTV showed those occurred north, east, and south of the island.
“All missiles hit the target accurately,” the Eastern Theater said in its announcement. No further details were given.
“China has chosen to overreact and use the speaker’s visit as a pretext to increase provocative military activity in and around the Taiwan Strait,” Kirby said at the White House Thursday. “We will not be deterred from operating in the seas and the skies of the Western Pacific consistent with international law, as we have for decades, supporting Taiwan and defending a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
China has long claimed sovereignty over Taiwan, and accused the US of supporting the Taipei government’s independence through Pelosi’s visit, saying it will have “a severe impact on the political foundation of China-US relations, and seriously infringes upon China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Pelosi and other Washington officials have insisted the US’ “One China” policy – which acknowledges China’s claim to Taiwan but does not support it – remains in place.
With Post wires.