US Test Launches Unarmed ICBM From California Coast

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The U.S. Air Force successfully launched an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile from California, the fourth such test this year.

The 30th Space Wing says the Minuteman 3 missile launched at 2:10 a.m. Wednesday from Vandenberg Air Force Base, about 130 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

An Air Force statement said the test would show the effectiveness, readiness, and accuracy of the weapon system.

Minuteman missiles are regularly tested with launches from Vandenberg that send unarmed re-entry vehicles 4,200 miles across the Pacific to a target area at Kwajalein Atoll.

Previous Minuteman ICBM launches this year were conducted in February, April and May. That month, the Air Force also conducted a test of a missile interceptor launched from Vandenberg. The interceptor destroyed a mock warhead over the Pacific.

However, the latest U.S. launches come amid tensions with North Korea as that nation develops its own ICBMs.

Flight data on North Korea’s most recent test, conducted Friday, showed that a broad part of the mainland United States, including Los Angeles and Chicago, is now in range of Pyongyang’s weapons, according to analysts.

In response, the U.S. Air Force flew two B-1 bombers over the Korean Peninsula on Sunday in a show of force. The U.S. also said it conducted a successful test of a missile defense system located in Alaska.

U.S. officials also say North Korea’s most recent test put hundreds of lives in danger by passing through commercial air space.

Friday morning, Air France flight 293 took off from Tokyo headed to Paris. About 45 minutes later, North Korea launched its missile. The plane’s flight path took it about 100 miles off the coast of Japan which is the same area where the missile landed 10 minutes later.

Air France says the flight was in no danger, but experts say the global aviation system isn’t prepared for an unexpected missile launch.

“I don’t believe that air traffic control would have the capacity to be able to warn a commercial air craft that a missile was in its flight path,” said CBS News national transportation safety expert Mark Rosenkur.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the U.S. is willing to hold talks with North Korea, but only if it gives up its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

“We are trying to convey to the North Koreans, ‘We are not your enemy,'” he said.

Tillerson said the U.S. does not seek a regime change, but only with the understanding that Pyongyang must give up its nuclear ambitions.

“We are not a threat,” he said. “But you are presenting an unacceptable threat to us.”

The secretary of state visits the Phillippines, Thailand and Malaysia later this week to discuss the situation on the Korean peninsula.

Both Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis brief the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday afternoon about authorization for the use of military of force.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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