The Defense Department on Thursday successfully tested a new missile with a range that was banned under a previous treaty with the former Soviet Union that was abandoned over the summer by Washington and Moscow.
The Associated Press reported that the missile prototype was configured to be armed with a non-nuclear warhead, but the Pentagon would not discuss specifics about the new weapon other than to say it was sent aloft from a “static launch stand” at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The missile, which landed in the Pacific Ocean, flew more than 500 kilometers (310 miles).
The last remaining limitation treaty between the U.S. and Russia regarding nuclear weapons — the 2010 New START agreement — will expire in February 2021. It’s not clear that the Trump administration or Russian President Vladimir Putin will renew it.
That treaty, the AP said, can be extended an additional five years without requiring major renegotiation of its terms, which the Trump White House has shown no interest in doing.
The Pentagon would not say how far the new missile can travel, but last spring when Defense officials disclosed their testing plan they said it would travel about 3,000 kilometers to 4,000 kilometers (1,860 miles to 2,480 miles).
That distance, noted analysts, is enough to reach targets in parts of China from a base on Guam.
The Pentagon has not said where the missile will ultimately be deployed, noting further that an additional couple of years’ worth of testing is required before it would be operational.
Russia and China both have intermediate-range missiles and are ahead of the U.S. in their development, officials have said.
Under the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty, land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range between 500 kilometers and 5,500 kilometers (310 miles to 3,417 miles) were prohibited.
The Trump administration said while the U.S. was compliant, Russia was not in that Moscow had developed a missile with a banned range and deployed it opposite U.S. and NATO forces in Europe.