by Aya Igarashi / Yomiuri Shimbun Correspondent
China’s military is advancing the development of a new intercontinental ballistic missile and increasing its stockpile of nuclear warheads, an ambitious step to block U.S. engagement in the Asia-Pacific region by boosting not only its naval and air forces, but also its nuclear missile capabilities.
The Chinese military conducted a second test launch of its newest ICBM, the Dong Feng-41 (DF-41), from the Wuzhai missile launch center in Shanxi Province to western China on Dec. 13, according to the U.S. website Washington Free Beacon, which cited Pentagon officials.
China first tested the DF-41 in July 2012. With a range of up to 14,000 kilometers, the missile is capable of hitting most targets in North America. The Global Times, which is affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party organ, People’s Daily, quoted the Washington Free Beacon report and said the DF-41 will serve as the new basis of the country’s security in its Dec. 19 editorial, effectively confirming this month’s test fire.
Tensions are escalating between the United States and China over the air defense identification zone that China unilaterally announced in the East China Sea last month and a near collision reported earlier this month between a U.S. guided missile cruiser and a Chinese warship. The U.S. ship is believed to have been monitoring the Liaoning, China’s sole aircraft carrier, in the South China Sea.
China’s test firing of the missile, along with its attempts at gaining air supremacy and the command of the sea, are apparently aimed at checking the United States.
China’s program to develop strategic missiles runs counter to the global trend of nuclear arms reduction, championed by the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama and others.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, China had about 250 nuclear warheads as of Jan. 1, which is far fewer than the United States’ 7,700, but it is the only nation among the five nuclear powers sanctioned under the Nuclear Non-Prolifertaion Treaty to increase its nuclear stockpile. The other sanctioned nuclear powers are the United States, Britain, France and Russia.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s Second Artillery Corps, in charge of ballistic missiles, already deploys DF-31A missiles, which have a range of 11,200 kilometers. A DF-31A is capable of carrying three to five warheads, whereas a DF-41 can carry up to 10.
A U.S. Air Force research institute in a May report said the number of Chinese warheads capable of reaching the United States will increase to 100 or more over the next 15 years after factoring in the development of the DF-41 missile.
The Chinese military is said to be close to deploying the Julang-2 (JL-2), a second-generation submarine-launched ballistic missile. When JL-2 missiles are installed in China’s state-of-the-art nuclear-powered Jin-class submarines, they would be capable of hitting the U.S. mainland from the Chinese coastal areas.http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0000895009