China reportedly tested a new nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic (ICBM) missile earlier this month, signaling a shift in Beijing’s nuclear posturing, defense officials revealed.
The Chinese military tested a DF-5C missile carrying ten inert warheads at Taiyuan Space Launch Center in Shanxi Province. The missile is a new variation of the DF-5, an ICBM that first went into service in the early 1980s.
The test was monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies, officials told the Washington Free Beacon.
“The [Department of Defense] routinely monitors Chinese military developments and accounts for [People’s Liberation Army] capabilities in our defense plans,” Pentagon spokesman Commander Gary Ross stressed to reporters.
The the test follows calls for China to “build more strategic arms.”
“We need to get better prepared militarily regarding the Taiwan question to ensure that those who advocate Taiwan’s independence will be punished, and take precautions in case of U.S. provocations in the South China Sea,” the nationalist Global Times asserted in December.
Last week, Chinese reports indicated that China has deployed nuclear-capable, road/-mobile DF-41s in northern China, possibly in response to President Donald Trump’s “provocative remarks.”
“China’s nuclear capability should be so strong that no country would dare launch a military showdown with China under any circumstance, and such that China can strike back against those militarily provoking it,” the Global Times argued. “A military clash with the U.S. is the last thing China wants, but China’s nuclear arsenal must be able to deter the U.S.”
China tested a DF-41 missile with two warheads last April. Observers suspect that China may have masked the true capabilities of the DF-41, arguing that the missile can likely carry between six and ten warheads.
“The DF-41 program appears to be in the advanced stage of research and development,” Mark Stokes, a former Pentagon expert on the Chinese military, explained to the Free Beacon.
China has been upgrading its nuclear force over the past few years.
China is also working on a multiple-warhead variant of the older, single-warhead DF-31.
The Chinese military “is re-engineering its long-range ballistic missiles to carry multiple nuclear warheads,” Admiral Cecil Haney, the former head of U.S. Strategic Command, said in a speech Jan. 22, 2016.
“I am fully aware that China continues to modernize its nuclear missile force,” Air Force General John Hyten said during a Senate confirmation hearing in September 2016.
He restated Haney’s concerns about China’s re-engineering of its long-range ballistic missiles, adding, “These developments—coupled with a lack of transparency on nuclear issues such as force disposition and size—may impact regional and strategic stability and are cause for continued vigilance and concern.”
China is believed to possess around 250 nuclear warheads; however, recent developments indicate that China may be building up its nuclear weapons stockpile.
“China must procure a level of strategic military strength that will force the U.S. to respect it,” the Global Times argued last week.
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