China’s defense ministry revealed Wednesday that it test-fired a new guided missile recently.
The weapon, which was not identified, was fired into the Bohai Sea and “achieved the intended result,” a Ministry of National Defense spokesman said, adding that the test was carried out to “raise the operational capability of the armed forces and effectively respond to threats to national security.”
The timing of the announcement coincides with the election of South Korea’s new president Moon Jae-in and comes amid a continued dispute between Beijing and Washington over the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system on South Korean soil.
Beijing has repeatedly stated it will take “necessary measures” to deal with the missile shield.
The plans for the deployment of THAAD were announced last July, and the actual deployment process began in March, shortly after North Korea launched a salvo of ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan. THAAD became operational last week, achieving “initial intercept capability,” according to NBC News. Additional hardware will augment the anti-missile system’s capabilities later this year, at which point THAAD will be fully operational.
China has pressured South Korea both economically and politically to abandon THAAD, which Beijing argues poses a threat to China’s national security. “China’s position on the issue of THAAD is clear and consistent,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang said Wednesday, “We hope South Korea can pay high attention to China’s concerns and handle the relevant issue in a proper way.”
Although the missile test may have been scheduled in advance, some experts suspect that the test, of what is believed to be a DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile, was intended as a warning.
“It hasn’t much to do with THAAD directly, but it is a kind of warning” to South Korea and the U.S., Song Zhongping, a Chinese military affairs expert and commentator for Hong Kong’s Phoenix TV, told the Associated Press.
At the same time, tensions between Pyongyang and Beijing have also risen in recent weeks as China works with the U.S. to rein in North Korea.
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