A missile defense test conducted over Hawaii failed Wednesday, U.S. officials have confirmed.
In a statement issued Thursday, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency stated that an interceptor launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Kauai, Hawaii, was unsuccessful in taking out its target.
“The primary objective of the test was to intercept an air-launched intermediate-range ballistic missile target,” the statement said. “However, this objective was not accomplished.”
The Pentagon initially declined to acknowledge the failure after reports surfaced in the media Wednesday, admitting only that a test had taken place.
“The Missile Defense Agency and US Navy sailors manning the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex (AAMDTC) conducted a live-fire missile flight test using a Standard-Missile (SM)-3 Block IIA missile launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Kauai, Hawaii, Wednesday morning,” defense spokesman Mark Wright told Reuters.
According to anonymous U.S. officials, “sensitivities surrounding North Korea’s participation in the upcoming Olympic Games” were cited as part of the reasoning for the silence.
The U.S. Missile Defense Agency is currently analyzing test data to determine why the system failed to intercept the test projectile.
While U.S. defense officials hope the system can eventually be used to stop intercontinental-ballistic missiles (ICBM), experts remain skeptical that such long-range projectiles can be easily defeated.
The Aegis system is touted to have an 83 percent success rate against mid-range missiles, but such tests are conducted under favorable conditions unlikely to be present in real-world scenarios. Other components of the U.S. missile shield, such as the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system (GMD), have only showed a success rate of 55 percent.
Although the GMD system was able to successfully intercept its first ICBM in May of last year, the projectile, which barely qualified as an ICBM, is not widely deployed.
Wednesday’s test comes amid numerous reports stating the Trump administration is preparing for a potential strike on North Korea.
Victor Cha, who was rumored to be the top candidate for U.S. ambassador to South Korea, is no longer being considered for the position after warning the White House that a “bloody nose” strike against Pyongyang would put hundreds of thousands of lives at risk.
The Trump administration asserts that while military options remain on the table, the campaign against North Korea’s nuclear weapons program remains a diplomatic effort.
“Our policy is maximum pressure with the goal of bringing North Korea to the negotiating table, as POTUS said in the State of the Union,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said. “We have been clear that it is our intention to resolve this issue peacefully through dialogue. We have also been clear that denuclearization is the only acceptable outcome, that the entire international community is united on this point, and that it will be achieved, one way or another.”