- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Chinese missile test

China recently conducted a long-range missile flight test that remains shrouded in secrecy.

The Sept. 25 test highlights what China military specialists say is the growing threat posed by Beijing’s development of long- and short-range ballistic and cruise missiles, and its new missile defense interceptors.

A U.S. official confirmed that China's military fired a missile from the Taiyuan missile center, about 320 miles southwest of Beijing, to Korla, a city in western China some 1,800 miles away.

Officials declined to provide details, saying the test data are classified.

China watchers in Asia and the United States were alerted to the test by a Sept. 23 “notice to airmen” issued by the Chinese government. The notice warned aircraft to stay clear of a corridor of airspace stretching from Taiyuan to Korla until Sept. 25.

After Sept. 25, one Chinese-language military-oriented Internet site reported that the test involved an anti-missile interceptor, part of the new ABM program first announced in January, or perhaps a shorter-range system. A second website reported that a long-range missile was tested.

One theory is that the test included the launch of a target missile from Taiyuan and an interceptor missile from Korla, which is known for past work on Chinese anti-missile defenses.

Since the test, an official wall of silence has gone up. There was hope that China would announce the missile firing as it did in January, when a missile defense interceptor test was disclosed in a brief public statement.

The silence may be a sign that the missile test was a failure.

More likely, analysts say, the test showed some new military capability of China’s growing missile forces that the government does not want to advertise, notably the high-technology anti-ship ballistic missile, based on a modified DF-21 medium-range missile.

In August, Navy Adm. Robert Willard, commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, said the anti-ship ballistic missile “has undergone repeated tests and it is probably very close to being operational.”

The anti-ship ballistic missile has a range of up to 1,200 miles and is designed to attack U.S. aircraft carriers at sea, a difficult targeting problem because of the high speeds of missile warheads that re-enter the atmosphere and then must maneuver to ships with precision guidance.

Spokesmen for the Pentagon and CIA declined to comment on the test.

Chinese Embassy spokesman Wang Baodong said he was not aware of the test but stated that if it took place, China's military “poses no threat to any other countries, and serves for peace and stability in the region and in the world at large.”

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