US tests defense system after North Korea missile launch

US tests defense system after North Korea missile launch
Posted at 6:41 AM, Jul 31, 2017

The United States said it conducted a successful missile defense test in the Pacific Ocean on Sunday amid growing tensions with North Korea.

US forces tested the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in Alaska by launching a ballistic missile over the Pacific Ocean, according to the US military.

The medium-range ballistic missile was detected, tracked and intercepted, it said.

The tests appears to be a show of force two days after North Korea conducted an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test -- though the THAAD system is not capable of intercepting ICBMs, and the test had been scheduled since earlier this month.

US Missile Defense Agency director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves said it's part of an effort "to stay ahead of the evolving threat," but did not provide specifics.

"In addition to successfully intercepting the target, the data collected will allow the Missile Defense Agency to enhance the THAAD weapon system," he said.

Soldiers used the same procedures they would use in an actual combat scenario, according to the US military. It said this is the 15th such test for the THAAD weapon system.

North Korea tests missile

North Korea said it tested a ballistic missile that can reach all of the United States. Its test of a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile Friday was its second of the long-range weapon in a month. The first on July 4 showed the missile had the range to reach Alaska.

Washington should regard the launch as a "grave warning," North Korea state media reported.

"The whole US mainland" is now within reach, state media quoted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as saying.

Allies join effort

The Trump administration has answered Pyongyang's missile tests with displays of US military power, including missile tests of its own.

The US sent two B-1 bombers from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam on Saturday on a 10-hour round trip over the Korean Peninsula. The US Pacific Air Forces described it as a direct response to the North Korean missile test.

The B-1s teamed up with Japanese and South Korean fighter jets to test "combined capabilities" during the mission, the US military said in a statement.

"We have a responsibility to our allies and our nation to showcase our unwavering commitment while planning for the worst-case scenario. If called upon, we are ready to respond with rapid, lethal, and overwhelming force at a time and place of our choosing," said Gen. Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy, commander of the Pacific Air Forces.

The THAAD system is capable of intercepting ballistic missiles inside or outside the atmosphere. It can shoot down short, medium and intermediate ballistic missiles.

It uses "hit-to-kill technology where kinetic energy destroys the incoming target," the US military says.

Each THAAD system is comprised of five major components: interceptors, launchers, a radar, a fire control unit and support equipment, according to Lockheed Martin, the security and aerospace company that serves as the prime contractor.

Trump pressures China to act

While Washington continues its military pressure, it has also asked China to pressure North Korea economically to cut off its access to foreign currency.

In a series of tweets Saturday night, Trump blasted China for doing "nothing" to stop North Korea.

"I am very disappointed in China. Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet they do nothing for us with North Korea, just talk. We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!" the tweets read.

In a statement released Sunday, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley placed further blame on China, saying the United States will not seek additional resolutions that don't "significantly increase" international pressure on North Korea because it sends "a message...that the international community is unwilling to seriously challenge [Kim]."

"China must decide whether it is finally willing to take this vital step," part of the statement read. "The time for talk is over. The danger the North Korean regime poses to international peace is now clear to all."