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US to Test ICBM Intercept Following N. Korea Missile Launch

By VOA News May 30, 2017

The United States planned to test its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) intercept Tuesday, a day after North Korea declared its most recent missile test a success.

The $224 million test is "part of a continuous learning curve," Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said. But the test could raise doubts about the U.S.'s ability to defend itself against a North Korean missile.

The ICBM-class target will be launched from a test range on Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific. The interceptor – or kill missile – will be fired from an underground silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. If it goes as planned, the interceptor will hit the ICBM target high over the Pacific Ocean.

Earlier Tuesday, North Korea's state-run news agency said the country's latest ballistic missile test was a success and involved a new precision guidance system.

In neighboring South Korea, the military said Monday's test involved a Scud-type missile that landed about 450 kilometers off North Korea's east coast in the Sea of Japan.

The U.S. Pacific Command said it tracked what appeared to be a short-range ballistic missile for six minutes and determined it did not post a threat to North America.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Twitter that "North Korea has shown great disrespect for their neighbor, China, by shooting off yet another ballistic missile." But Trump gave China credit for "trying hard" to rein in North Korea's military ambitions.

China has repeatedly said it views dialogue as the path to resolving the standoff over North Korea's nuclear program.

"The problem, of course, is that North Korea firing so many missiles, it's going to be a problem for both China and the United States," Rand Corporation analyst Bruce Bennett told VOA. "But it's also a problem for South Korea, their politics, and in the end what it's really saying is the regime probably is not very stable."

Bennett said that instability could be attributed to the government of Kim Jong Un not being able to boost its economy, not gaining the recognition it wants from China, or because its senior leaders fear they could be killed like others during Kim's time in power.

Monday's missile test – the third in as many weeks – came just days after world leaders at the G-7 economic summit demanded that Pyongyang give up its nuclear ambitions.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has warned that if a diplomatic solution cannot be found for the situation with North Korea, "it would be a catastrophic war if this turns into a combat."

"The North Korean regime has hundreds of artillery cannons and rocket launchers within range of one of the most densely populated cities on earth, which is the capital of South Korea," Mattis told CBS News.

The United States is currently working to make its THAAD missile defense system fully operational in South Korea.

But the system has met opposition from China, which sees it as a threat, and questions from the new administration of South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

A Moon spokesman said Tuesday the president is demanding an investigation into the THAAD deployment after finding out four launchers arrived in South Korea in addition to the original two that were installed in April.

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