China reportedly fired off around two dozen missiles at mock-ups of American targets over the weekend.
The Chinese military launched 20 missiles at mock missile defense systems and fighter jets, specifically the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system and U.S. Air Force F-22 stealth fighters, U.S. intelligence officials revealed to Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson Wednesday.
China is believed to have tested medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, as well as cruise missiles during the exercise.
Beijing is firmly opposed to THAAD, which the U.S. is in the process of deploying in South Korea to better defend American allies in the region from the threat posed by North Korea and its expanding arsenal of ballistic weaponry. The THAAD system in South Korea has already achieved initial intercept capability, and more units may soon be on their way. After the North successfully tested another intercontinental ballistic missile Friday, South Korea requested additional units to boost defense, a move which was strongly criticized by Beijing.
THAAD is one of America’s finest missile defense systems, with a perfect test performance record. The U.S. military conducted two tests of the THAAD system in July, demonstrating a reliable ability to intercept intermediate-range ballistic missiles.
China’s People’s Daily, a state-run media outlet, claimed in June that the U.S. has “opened a Pandora’s box,” asserting the U.S. is changing nuclear deterrence postures. “What the US has done will indeed start a new arms race,” the commentary explained. “The U.S. global missile defense system is ultimately targeted at the nuclear deterrent capability of China and Russia,” the Global Times, a fiery nationalist outlet affiliated with the state-run People’s Daily, argued in February.
Beijing claims that THAAD’s elite radar system has the ability to peer into Chinese territory, potentially threatening their national security. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of National Defense have both said numerous times that China will take “necessary measures” to counter THAAD.
While the focus of this past weekend’s exercise was eliminating that THAAD system, China has fired on mock-ups of U.S. bases and weapons systems in the past. There is strong evidence that the Chinese armed forces have mock bases in Western China that its growing rocket forces use as practice targets.
The odds of armed conflict with China is unlikely, but the weekend tests are firm reminders that China’s strategic national interests are often very different from those of the U.S. The reality that cooperation faces challenges has become increasingly-clear on the Korean Peninsula, where Beijing and Washington constantly fail to see eye-to-eye.
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