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Pentagon postpones nuclear missile test

The Pentagon has rescheduled a test of its Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile initially set for the weekend, spokesman John Kirby announced on Wednesday. The move is indicated “to demonstrate that we are a responsible nuclear power,” he said.

In an effort to demonstrate that we have no intention in engaging in any actions that could be misunderstood or misconstrued, the Secretary of Defense has directed that our Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile test launch scheduled for this week to be postponed,” he said in a televised address.

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Kirby declared Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to put Russia’s nuclear forces on a “special regime of combat duty” to be a “dangerous and irresponsible and…unnecessary step.” However, experts have acknowledged it’s not clear what change the move meant for Russia’s nuclear arsenal, and note that the US’ own missiles are armed at all times.  

Kirby himself insisted the postponement of the test launch was “not a step backwards in our readiness.” He said the US was ready and willing to defend itself, its allies and its partners, but that “at this moment of tension” he recognized “how critical it is that both the US and Russia bear in mind the risk of miscalculation and take steps to reduce those risks.”

No long-range nuclear missiles or bombs have been used in wartime since World War II, largely because the Soviet Union began testing its own nukes in 1949 and the existence of two superpowers armed with such weapons erased any benefit that might conceivably be gained by using them on one another. While both NATO and Russia have shorter-range nuclear bombs, those are considered less of a priority in Washington.

READ MORE: US warns about nukes in Belarus

Putin cited “aggressive statements” by NATO and financial sanctions in his decision to increase the readiness of Russia’s weapons. Meanwhile, the EU has taken the unprecedented step of shipping hundreds of millions of dollars in weapons to help Ukraine amid Russia’s offensive. The US has also stepped up financial and military aid. NATO remains stationed just outside Ukraine, with various officials saying that the alliance would not take part in the conflict as long as hostilities don’t spill into an allied country.

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