China confirms new generation long range missiles: report

'Accidental' leak acknowledging long-range missile comes in a report on website of an official environmental monitoring centre

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 August, 2014, 1:09pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 August, 2014, 3:46am

China has acknowledged the existence of a new intercontinental ballistic missile said to be capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads as far as the United States, state-run media reported yesterday.

In what seems like an accidental leak, a government environmental monitoring centre in Shaanxi said in a working progress summary on its website that between June 9 and 13, the centre would complete an environmental protection check of a military facility in the province responsible for developing Dongfeng-41 (DF-41) missiles. The leak was quickly picked up by the state-run Global Times on its website.

China's military is highly secretive, and the Global Times said the PLA had not previously acknowledged the DF-41.

However, later in the day, the report was deleted from all Chinese news websites, including the Global Times, and the website of the environmental monitoring centre was shut down.

The defence ministry couldn't be reached for comment.

Ni Lexiong , a Shanghai-based military affairs commentator, said this could either be a leak of top military secrets or a way to communicate China's military strength without fully revealing its capability.

The centre declined to comment on Friday.

The DF-41 is designed to have a range of 12,000km, according to a report by Jane's Strategic Weapon Systems, which would put it among the world's longest-range missiles.

Reports by Jane's provide authoritative analysis on multinational military strategic information.

The missile is "possibly capable of carrying multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles", the US Defence Department said in a report in June, referring to a payload of several nuclear warheads.

It also quoted a Chinese military analyst as saying: "As the US continues to strengthen its missile defence system, developing third-generation nuclear weapons capable of carrying multiple warheads is the trend."

China's defence ministry in January responded to reports that it had tested a hypersonic missile delivery vehicle by saying that any military experiments were "not targeted at any country or at any specific goals".

It had the same response last December when asked about reports that it had tested the DF-41.

Tensions between Washington and Beijing have risen in recent months over territorial disputes with US allies in the East and South China Seas, and over computer hacking.

Beijing has boosted its military spending by double digit amounts for several years as President Xi Jinping seeks to modernise its armed forces amid increasing sovereignty disputes. China is now the world's second biggest spender on the military after the US.

"The DF-41 will dramatically improve China's nuclear counter-attack capability, which is a good thing to maintain peace between China and the United States as the two countries' nuclear forces are becoming more balanced," Ni said.

Additional reporting by Adrian Wan