Amid heightened tensions with North Korea, the USA will conduct a flight test of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), an element of the nation's ballistic missile defense system, Fox News has learned.
The U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers from Andersen Air Force Base at the island of Guam conducted a 10-hour sequenced bilateral mission with South Korean and Japanese fighter jets, the statement said. "Let me be clear, if called upon we are trained, equipped and ready to unleash the full lethal capability of our allied air forces".
Among new sanctions under consideration, US officials indicated, are restrictions on the flow of oil and other energy supplies to Pyongyang's military and weapons programs, tightened controls over air and maritime traffic to North Korea, and further moves to hold senior officials of the Kim Jong Un regime accountable for the country's defiance of global demands to shut down its nuclear-weapons development program.
The exercise aimed to "sternly respond to the series of North Korea's ballistic missile launches", the South's military said in a statement.
The test will be the first of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) to defend against a simulated attack by an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM), one of the officials said.
"The U.S. -Japan alliance and the relationship between our militaries are stronger than they have ever been", said Lt. Gen. Han said the Hwasong-14, North Korea's name for its ICBM, qualified to be an ICBM when considering its travel distance, but that the maximum speed was way below the threshold of Mach 20.
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Despite its inability to reach the continental US, the missile's launch shows ongoing progress from the country in its desire to create long-range nuclear weaponry.
His comments appeared aimed at clarifying that the US was not considering military action in response to the missile launch. "The nuclear and ballistic missile programs of that regime require a determined response".
The U.N. in June voted to increase sanctions on North Korea, following its ninth missile test of the year.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Friday in Hamburg, where the leaders of G20 nations are meeting, there would not be many good options left on North Korea if the peaceful pressure campaign failed.
Trump who had said earlier he would not allow North Korea to have an ICBM, reacted strongly saying USA is drawing plans for its "pretty severe" response. "So much for China working with us - but we had to give it a try!"
Vice Admiral James Syring, a former director of the Missile Defense Agency, said in May the THAAD system has a 100% success rate in its 13 flight tests so far.
But US military actions in the South China Sea are antagonizing Beijing.