DF-41 launch comes amid heightened tensions over S. China Sea
April 19, 2016 5:00 am
China conducted another flight test of its newest and longest-range intercontinental ballistic missile last week amid growing tensions with the United States over the South China Sea.
Pentagon officials told the Free Beacon the flight test of the new road-mobile DF-41 missile took place Tuesday with two multiple, independently targetable reentry vehicles, or MIRVs, that were monitored in flight by U.S. military satellites and other regional sensors.
Officials did not say where the test took place. Past DF-41 launches were carried out from the Wuzhai Missile and Space Test Center in central China.
The latest flight test followed an earlier, rail-based canister ejection test of a DF-41 on Dec. 5.
U.S. Strategic Command commander Adm. Cecil Haney said Jan. 22 that China’s multiple warhead missiles are part of a significant investment in both nuclear and conventional forces.
“China is re-engineering its long-range ballistic missiles to carry multiple nuclear warheads,” Haney said in a speech.
The flight test came around the same time that a high-ranking Chinese general made an unusual visit to a disputed South China Sea island. Also, the missile test occurred three days before Defense Secretary Ash Carter visited the aircraft carrier USS Stennis as it sailed in the South China Sea.
Pentagon officials said the visit to Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands by Gen. Fan Changlong was timed to the Carter visit to the region. Fan is vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, the most powerful military organ under the ruling Communist Party of China.
The Pentagon has said China is covertly building military bases on disputed islands in the sea. Beijing has accused Washington of militarizing the sea by deploying warships and bolstering regional alliances.
Disclosure of the DF-41 test follows a newsletter report last month that stated China is nearing deployment of the new ICBM.
Kanwa Asian Defense reported last month that the new ICBM is in the final testing phase, and its expected deployment area will be near Xinyang in Henan province, in central China.
From that location, the missile would be capable of striking the United States in around 30 minutes, either through a polar trajectory or over the Pacific.