Vandenberg calls off Minuteman III missile test launch due to tensions with China

Airman 1st Class Hanah Abercrombie/U.S. Air Force
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A routine Minuteman III missile test at Vandenberg Space Force Base has been called off amid heightened tensions with China, White House officials announced Thursday.

The missile test, once planned for late Wednesday night to early Thursday morning and delayed to Thursday night or Friday morning, had been set to occur from an underground silo on North Base near Lompoc.

But tensions with China arose amid U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, making the Congress member from California the highest ranking U.S. government officials to visit.

Overnight, China launched an estimated 11 ballistic missiles toward Taiwan, impacting to the northeast, east and southeast of the island.

John Kirby, the National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications, said the United States condemned the actions and considered the launches “irresponsible and at odds with our longstanding goal of maintaining peace across the Taiwan Strait and the region.”

On Thursday, Kirby, providing a statement during the White House press briefing, announced the postponement of the Minuteman test from Vandenberg.

“The United States will be resolute but also steady and responsible,” Kirby said. “We do not believe it is in our interest, Taiwan’s interest, the region’s interest to allow tensions to escalate further which is why the long-planned Minuteman III ICBM test scheduled for this week has been rescheduled for the near future.

“As China engages in destabilizing military exercises around Taiwan, the United States is demonstrating instead the behavior of a responsible nuclear power by reducing the risks of miscalculation and misperception,” Kirby added.

“We will continue to demonstrate transparency in our U.S. ballistic missile tests through timely notifications as a practice that China has often rejected.”

A mariners’ notice warning boaters to remain off the water near the north section of Vandenberg was lifted midday Thursday.

“Rescheduling this test will not in any way impact the modernization, the readiness, or the reliability of America’s safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent,” Kirby said.

“And the test will happen. It will be rescheduled for the near future.”

This is the second delay for a Minuteman III missile test from Vandenberg in 2022.

Earlier this year, officials postponed a Minuteman test due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Vandenberg typically conducts between three to four Minuteman III missile tests each year to collect data about the weapon system’s accuracy and reliability.

The Air Force has some 400 Minuteman weapons sitting on alert in and around Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.