WASHINGTON — The US Defense Department denied Wednesday that the United States test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads during a joint military exercise with Saudi Arabia.
A Western military official in Saudi Arabia, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said a Trident missile was launched Wednesday out in the kingdom. But Lt. Col. Jonathan Withington, a US Defense Department spokesman, said there was no launch of Trident or any other missile during the exercise, which began last week.
The Western military official in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, said US Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly, head of the Missile Defense Agency, attended the test launch. However, a second defense official in the United States said that while O'Reilly was in the region last week, he did not attend any missile launch.
The US has been strengthening missile defenses in allied Arab nations in the Gulf to help counter any potential missile strike from Iran. Like its nuclear work, Iran's missile program is of top concern to Washington and Arab nations wary of Teheran's growing influence in the region.