The United States will test its THAAD missile defense system against an intermediate-range ballistic missile in the coming days, two U.S. officials told Reuters on July 7.
The test was planned months ago, but coincides with North Korea’s recent advances in developing long-range and nuclear-capable weapons, notably its test-launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on July 4.
The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) will be deployed from Alaska and face off against an intermediate-range ballistic missile for the first time, the unnamed officials said.
Intermediate-range means 3,000–5,500 km (1,864–3,418 miles). Such missiles, if launched from North Korea, would be incapable of reaching the West Coast, but could strike as far as Alaska. Some experts said the missile North Korea successfully tested on July 4 could reach as far.
Since the test launch, the United States, together with South Korea and Japan, conducted a series of drills, including testing missile systems and running a bombing drill in South Korea.
North Korea aims to possess a missile arsenal capable of striking the United States with nuclear weapons, a situation the United States finds unacceptable, but still wants to resolve peacefully.
President Donald Trump is keeping pressure on China, the North’s biggest trading partner, to dissuade the regime from further pursuing its nuclear weapons program. China initially showed signs of promise, like halting some imports of coal from the North, but hasn’t shown any notable progress since.
“Trade between China and North Korea grew almost 40% in the first quarter. So much for China working with us – but we had to give it a try!” Trump tweeted on July 5.
Trade between China and North Korea grew almost 40% in the first quarter. So much for China working with us – but we had to give it a try!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 5, 2017
During his meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Trump appeared willing to give China more time.
“I appreciate the things that you have done relative to the very substantial problem that we all face in North Korea, a problem that something has to be done about,” he said, according to South Korean Jonhap News agency. “It may take longer than I’d like. It may take longer that you’d like,” he said. “But there will be success in the end one way or the other.”