‘No Interest In Escalating Tensions’: US Delays Missile Test As China Fumes

(Courtesy photo by Lt. Col. Andy Wulfestieg/Released)

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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered a second delay of routine intercontinental ballistic missile tests to avoid provoking a Chinese reaction, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

This is the second time the routine test of the Minuteman III missile, referred to as a “Glory Trip” and used to assess the reliability of missiles, has been delayed this year, the WSJ reported. The U.S. first delayed the test in March, when Russian President Vladimir Putin said that his country’s nuclear forces were at heightened readiness, to avoid an escalation, according to the WSJ. (RELATED: ‘Reunification’ And ‘Reeducation’ Coming For Taiwan, Chinese Ambassador Says)

White House national security spokesman John Kirby, who announced the delay, stressed at a Thursday briefing that the delay would only be “a couple of weeks” and that a new test date had already been chosen, according to Defense News.

“The decision [to postpone] came in light and in context of the tensions that we’re seeing right now, and they’re pretty escalated,” Kirby said, according to Defense News. “Temperature’s pretty high, and the president believed, and the national security team believed, that a strong, confident, capable nuclear power can afford to wait a couple of weeks for a test to make it clear — not just in word but in deed — how serious we are when we say we have no interest in escalating the tensions.”

Tensions between the U.S. and China have skyrocketed since a visit by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with China launching military drills and tests at an unprecedented scale, firing live missiles and blockading the island, the WSJ reported Friday.

“We can say that we have the ability to switch the exercise into a real war at any point,” said Major General Meng Xiangqing, a professor at the People’s Liberation Army National Defense University, to state media, according to the WSJ.

The delayed test would consist of an unarmed Minuteman III being fired from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, splashing down near Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, Defense News reported.

The move drew sharp criticism from Republicans, with Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, calling the repeated delays “weak-kneed pearl-clutching attempts at appeasement,” according to the WSJ. Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas accused the Biden administration of allowing foreign governments to “dictate our missile-test schedule,” on Twitter.

The delay to the test could be as short as 10 days, according to the the WSJ, citing anonymous U.S. officials.

The Department of Defense told the Daily Caller News Foundation it delayed the test on “the recommendation of the national security team.”

“The decision was made in order to decouple the test from China’s alarming response to Speaker Pelosi’s Taiwan visit,” it said in a statement. “In no way will the rescheduling impact the modernization, readiness, or reliability of America’s safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent.”

This story has been updated with comment from the Department of Defense.

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