A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched during a successful intercept test, in this undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency. Reuters/ U.S. Missile Defense Agency/Handout

The Department of Defense announced Tuesday it successfully tested its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) against an intermediate-range ballistic missile in the Pacific Ocean.

The announcement comes after North Korea claimed last week it had launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

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For the U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s test, a ballistic missile target was air-launched by a C-17 over the Pacific Ocean north of Hawaii. The THAAD system, which was located at the Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska (PSCA) in Kodiak Island, Alaska, detected tracked and successfully hit the missile target.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the government and contractor team who executed this flight test today,” MDA Director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves said in a statement on Tuesday. “This test further demonstrates the capabilities of the THAAD weapon system and its ability to intercept and destroy ballistic missile threats. THAAD continues to protect our citizens, deployed forces and allies from a real and growing threat.”

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Soldiers who conducted the test and used the same procedures they would if it were an actual scenario were unaware of the drill’s target launch time, officials said.

“The successful demonstration of THAAD against an IRBM-range missile threat bolsters the country’s defensive capability against developing missile threats in North Korea and other countries around the globe and contributes to the broader strategic deterrence architecture,” the MDA said.

Officials emphasized that the THAAD is “strictly a defense system” which uses hit-to-kill technology while kinetic energy destroys the incoming target. The high-altitude intercept destroys enemy’s weapons before they reach the ground.

Last week, Pyongyang said Kim Jong Un oversaw the test of a Hwasong-14 missile on July 4, its eleventh missile test this year. The launch brings North Korea closer to its goal of striking the United States.

The missile was launched from the Banghyon airfield in Kusong, North Korea and flew 578 miles before it landed in the Sea of Japan. State media said the missile is able to hit the “heart of the United States,” with experts saying it could reach as far as Alaska.

Kim said the launch was a “gift” to President Donald Trump’s administration for the Fourth of July.

“The American bastards must be quite unhappy after closely watching our strategic decision,” the Korean Central News Agency quoted Kim stating after watching the test. “I guess they are not too happy with the gift package we sent them for the occasion of their Independence Day. We should often send them gift packages so they won’t be too bored.”

The Pentagon responded to North Korea’s missile launch saying: "We remain prepared to defend ourselves and our allies and to use the full range of capabilities at our disposal against the growing threat from North Korea."

Meanwhile, Trump tweeted about the test last week saying: “North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life?”