China test-fires missile that can reach all of US, American media reports
The Washington Free Beacon website, quoting unnamed Pentagon officials, says a DF-41 – with a range of 12,000km – was launched on April 12, just ahead of US defence chief Ash Carter’s regional visit
China test-fired one of its newest intercontinental ballistic missiles last week amid rising tensions between Beijing and Washington over the South China Sea, US media reported on Wednesday.
News website Washington Free Beacon, quoting unnamed Pentagon officials, reported that a DF-41 – which has a range of at least 12,000km – was launched on April 12. The website has a proven track record in breaking news about operations of the People’s Liberation Army.
News of the launch comes amid a visit to disputed islands in the South China Sea by General Fan Changlong, who is the vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission. The visit was announced by the defence ministry on Friday.
No exact date for the inspection was given but the news came as US Defence Secretary Ash Carter visited the USS Stennis, which was deployed in the South China Sea.
According to the Beacon’s report, the missile had two multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles, each of which is capable of carrying several warheads. Its range allows the PLA to strike anywhere inside the United States.
The missile was monitored in flight by US military satellites and other regional sensors, a Pentagon official was quoted as saying.
China’s defence ministry has not responded to a request for confirmation of the launch. The report did not say where the launch took place. Last December China confirmed that it had tested a rail-based DF-41 launcher.
Ni Lexiong, a Shanghai-based military analyst, said observers would “naturally” link the test to the situation in the South China Sea. “Whether this was intended to work with China’s diplomatic efforts is open to interpretation,” Ni said.
The Beacon said last month China was close to deploying the DF-41. Additional details were reported this month by the respected monthly magazine Kanwa Asian Defence, which said the missile was in the final testing phase, and was expected to be deployed near Xinyang in Henan province.
The missile can be moved by road, and its sea-based version, the JL-2, can be fired from the PLA Navy’s newest Type 094 nuclear submarines.
It would be capable of striking the US in about 30 minutes – either through a polar trajectory or over the Pacific.
The US is also beefing up its missile capabilities in the region, with plans to deploy an advanced Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system in South Korea to ward off an attack from the North. The radar of the anti-ballistic missile interceptor would allow close monitoring of any launch in east or central China.
Beijing has protested against the planned deployment, which the Pentagon says is defensive in nature and not aimed at China
The US last month offered to brief Chinese officials on how the system operates, and said it was not capable of the reach the Chinese seemed to fear.