The US resumed testing of ground-based medium-range nuclear-capable missiles earlier this year after scrapping its commitment to the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), a landmark strategic arms reduction agreement aimed at reducing the risk of nuclear war in Europe.
For the first time since the end of the INF Treaty, the U.S. Air Force has tested a ground-launched, intermediate-range ballistic missile.
It was a prototype missile armed with a nonnuclear warhead, Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Robert Carver said.
The launch was not publicly announced before it occurred, though several news outlets anticipated the test. Noozhawk reported that mariners were notified to keep out of the area between 5 a.m. and 12:41 p.m. on Thursday.
Trump ignored concerns about the impacts on global security and formally withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty after suspending US obligations under the deal in February and giving Russian President Vladimir Putin six months to destroy weapons that the USA government and NATO deemed noncompliant with the bilateral agreement.
The test missile lifted off from its launch stand at 8:30 a.m. and landed in the open ocean after an approximate 310-mile flight, according to a prepared statement provided to The Tribune by a Vandenberg spokesperson.
But the department said it would start developing intermediate-range missiles after the agreement expired to counter China and Russian Federation.
"Following the USA suspension of its obligations under INF in February 2019, (Department of Defense) began conceptual design activities on ground-launched cruise missile and ballistic missile systems, activities which would have been inconsistent with our obligation under the treaty", Carver added.
The test further raises questions about the uncertain future of arms control.
A request for comment from the Russian Embassy in Washington on Thursday's test was not immediately answered Thursday. These included an underwater nuclear-powered drone and a laser weapon.
"This is a reckless and unnecessary escalation that's going to exacerbate tensions with Russia, China, and North Korea-all of whom would be in range of this type of missile if it is ever deployed", Arms Control Association executive director Daryl Kimball told The Associated Press. The Trump administration has indicated little interest in doing so.
It was the second test by the Pentagon that would have not been allowed under the INF treaty.
In a brief appearance before reporters after the test announcement, Defense Secretary Mark Esper was asked whether the Pentagon is considering deploying an INF-range missile to Europe.