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“As of 9 March 2009, the article remained widely available on PRC websites, including those belonging to Neimenggu Ribao and Fujian Ribao.”

Asked about the reported threat to sink U.S. ships, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said last week that the statement had not appeared in the Chinese press before. However, the nature of the comments prompted the Pentagon to ask for an official explanation from the Chinese Embassy in Washington during a meeting earlier this month, he said.

The Chinese explanation was that the embassy was “unfamiliar with the article,” he said. “We are awaiting their formal response,” Mr. Morrell added.

The meeting also was held to protest a later incident of Chinese naval harassment of the USNS Impeccable in the South China Sea.

Any dispute over activities in the 200-mile economic zone from China’s coast “in no way authorizes the use of force under UN Charter Article 51,” Mr. Morrell said.

Mr. Morrell said all countries enjoy high-seas freedoms in such zones, “including the right to engage in military activities without prior notification to, or consent of, the coastal state.”

THAAD test

A missile-defense interceptor of the Army’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, successfully hit a target ballistic missile in Hawaii Wednesday morning.

It was the first time the ground-based system for knocking out incoming missiles was tested against a salvo of two missiles, although only one of the two targets was destroyed. The second target was destroyed by test officials.

“Soldiers operating the system did not know when the target would be launched and reacted to target detection as they would during a tactical situation,” said Missile Defense Agency spokesman Rick Lehner. The THAAD interceptor collided directly with a separating warhead from the ballistic missile target just inside Earth’s atmosphere.

THAAD is one of the lesser-known of three missile defense systems under development. The other two are the Ground Based Interceptor system, current deployed in Alaska and California, and the Navy sea-based missile defense.

THAAD is considered a highly capable system of sensors, radar and interceptors designed to knock out short- and medium-range missiles as they near the end of their launch cycle. When fully deployed, it will be more effective against incoming missile attacks than the current Patriot missile defense.

“It is a part of the layered, integrated missile defense system, with both land- and sea-based interceptors that can intercept missiles of all ranges, during any phase of flight [-] boost, midcourse and terminal,” Mr. Lehner said.

Bill Gertz covers national security affairs. He can be reached at 202/636-3274, or at