Two “aircraft-carrier killer” missiles that China’s People’s Liberation Army fired into the South China Sea during an exercise in August this year had traveled thousands of kilometers to hit their designated target — a moving ship — near the Paracel Islands, a Chinese military expert has revealed.
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The US has now raised concerns that its ships in the South China Sea can well be targeted given that the missiles — one DF-26B and a DF-21D — were launched from the northwestern province of Qinghai and Zhejiang province in eastern China, respectively.
While the initial reports had suggested that missiles fell into the South China Sea, Wang Xiangsui, a former senior colonel who now works as a professor at Beihang University in Beijing, said that they hit a ship, their intended target, according to an SCMP report.
Wang at a closed-door meeting in Zhejiang last month reportedly said: “So several days later [after the aircraft carrier maneuvers], we launched the DF-21 and DF-26, and the missiles hit a vessel sailing south of the Paracel Islands.”
“Shortly after that, an American military attaché in Geneva complained [to us] and said it would lead to severe consequences if the missiles hit an American aircraft carrier. They see this as a show of force. But we are doing this because of their provocation,” the SCMP quoted him as saying.
Wang was referring to Beijing’s claims about a US U-2 spy plane entering a no-fly zone without permission during a Chinese live-fire naval drill in the Bohai Sea off its northern coast.
This is the first time that China’s demonstration of an actual long-range anti-ship ballistic missile capability has been confirmed while many details are still unknown such as about the target ship, its construction, how fast it might have been moving, or how the PLA may have cued the missiles to their target.
It seems China launches DF-21D MRBMs from Ningbo (Zhejiang) and DF-26 IRBMs from Da Qaidam (Qinghai) to the South China Sea today. pic.twitter.com/lSFXXVoisZ
— Duan Dang (@duandang) August 26, 2020
While several US defense officials have expressed concern over the development, Wang termed China’s demonstration of long-range anti-ship ballistic missile “as a warning to the US” “Such actions mark the bottom line of Sino-US confrontation,” he said.
According to a Reuters report, the US government had assessed that China had fired four ballistic missiles in total. The Pentagon had said in a statement: “The Department of Defense is concerned about the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) recent decision to conduct military exercises, including the firing of ballistic missiles, around the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea on August 23-29”.
The DF-21D has a maximum range in excess of 1,500 kilometers, according to the Pentagon, while DF-26-series missiles can reportedly strike targets located 2,500 miles away.
The missile launches came amid heightened tensions between Beijing and the US. In July, when the US Navy deployed two aircraft carrier groups, led by the USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan, to conduct tactical air defense exercises in the disputed waters, China had termed it as provocative and retaliated with these missile tests.