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U.S. Navy Shoots Down Medium-Range Missile Off Hawaii in Test

by Courtney Kube and F. Brinley Bruton /  / Updated 
Image: Ballistic Test Missile off Hawaii
A handout photo made available by the US Defense Department's Missile Defense Agency on 30 August 2017 shows a medium-range ballistic missile target is launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii, during Flight Test Standard Missile-27 Event 2 (FTM-27 E2) on 29 August 2017. The target was successfully intercepted by SM-6 missiles fired from the USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53).Latonja Martin / EPA

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WASHINGTON — U.S. forces shot down a medium-range ballistic missile off the coast of Hawaii Wednesday as part of a test conducted amid heightened regional tensions.

Early Wednesday local time, U.S. Navy sailors on the USS John Paul Jones "successfully conducted a complex defense flight test," according to a statement by the Missile Defense Agency, a section of the Defense Department.

"We are working closely with the fleet to develop this important new capability, and this was a key milestone," the agency's director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves said in a statement. "We will continue developing ballistic missile defense technologies to stay ahead of the threat as it evolves."

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This is not the first time the U.S. forces have conducted this sort of test.

Related: Why It's So Hard for U.S. Spies to Figure Out North Korea

Wednesday's move by the U.S. came after a series of North Korean missile tests and threats by Kim Jong Un. On Monday, Pyongyang fired a ballistic missile over Japan. This prompted President Donald Trump to say the U.S. is "100 percent with Japan."

On Wednesday, Trump tweeted that, "The U.S. has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years. Talking is not the answer!"

Later Wednesday morning, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said, "We're never out of diplomatic solutions."

Mattis, appearing alongside his South Korean counterpart, Defense Minister Song Young Moo, added, "We continue to work together and the minister and I share responsibility to provide for the protection of our nation our populations and our interests, which is what we are here to discuss."

In a statement released by the White House on Tuesday, Trump reiterated that "all options are on the table" when it comes to North Korea.

He added: "Threatening and destabilizing actions only increase the North Korean regime’s isolation in the region and among all nations of the world."

The U.S. and South Korea are currently conducting war games, and North Korea typically reacts with anger to such military drills.

North Korea aims to build an arsenal of nuclear missiles that can reliably target the United States. In addition, leader Kim has conducted several long-range ballistic missile tests this year, including firing two intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Courtney Kube reported from Washington, F. Brinley Bruton reported from London

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