WASHINGTON - A senior defense official told ABC News today that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has delayed a Minuteman 3 missile test that had been scheduled for Tuesday at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California "to avoid misperception or manipulation" by North Korea.
The official said the test has been long planned "and thus unconnected from the recent tensions with North Korea."
"We recognized that an ICBM test at this time might be misconstrued by some as suggesting that we were intending to exacerbate the current crisis with North Korea," the official said. "We wanted to avoid that misperception or manipulation.
"We are committed to testing our ICBMs to ensure a safe, secure, effective nuclear arsenal," a second defense official said. "The test is being rescheduled, likely next month."
According to the senior official, Hagel made his decision Friday night.
The test was for the Air Force and not part of the Missile Defense Agency's program to test missile interceptors as part of the missile defense program designed to counter a North Korean missile threat to the U.S.
MDA routinely conducts tests of the interceptor missiles and uses Minuteman 3's for targeting purposes.
The test that had been planned for Tuesday was part of a long-scheduled series of launches for the Air Force's Global Strike Command to test the effectiveness of the Minuteman 3 fleet. The U.S. has 450 of the missiles in its arsenal that are equipped to carry nuclear warheads.