The U.S. Air Force launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile of the year Wednesday in a successful test of the weapons system.
The launch, which began at 5:26 a.m. PDT, sent an unarmed Minuteman III missile from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base to an undisclosed location in the Pacific Ocean.
The Air Force says the test – the first since last August after a February launch was postponed – was aimed at verifying the readiness, effectiveness and accuracy of the system.
The launch follows the announcement from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un earlier this month that Pyongyang would suspend its nuclear and missile tests.
North Korean state-run media quoted Kim as saying such tests had become unnecessary in light of Pyongyang’s development of a credible nuclear force.
While some analysts say Kim’s announcement is a show of strength and not a concession, two teams of Chinese scientists believe the decision is related to the apparent collapse of North Korea’s nuclear test site at Punggye-ri.
North Korea observers at 38 North, however, say commercial satellite imagery shows that the test site is still fully operational.
Although Punggye-ri’s North Portal – the site of 5 of the country’s 6 nuclear tests, including that of a suspected thermonuclear bomb last September – was seemingly abandoned, activity this month has been detected at the West Portal.
Kim is set to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in this Friday for the two countries first summit in a decade.
Trump has stated that he plans to meet with Kim to discuss the country’s nuclear weapons in May or early June.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Trump will tell Kim that his administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign will remain until North Korea dismantles its nuclear arsenal.
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