China defiant on missile tests
BEIJING—China said on Thursday it was “normal” to carry out ballistic missile launches, after a US media report accused Beijing of having test-fired an intercontinental weapon last week.
US media site Washington Free Beacon, citing unidentified Pentagon officials, reported that China carried out a test of its DF-41 long-range missile on April 12.
The report linked the tests to tensions between Washington and Beijing over the South China Sea, noting that it came three days before a visit by US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter.
The DF-41 missile has a range of 14,000 kilometers and could, according to some experts, carry up to 10 nuclear warheads.
In a brief response, China’s defense ministry did not deny a test had been carried out, but dismissed media reports of a specific location as “pure speculation.”
“It is normal for us to carry out scientific research tests in our own territory, according to our plans, and they are not aimed at any specific nations or targets,” the ministry said in a statement on its website.
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, which is home to some of the world’s most important shipping lanes and is believed to contain vast oil reserves.
But its neighbors Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan have overlapping claims, and tensions have risen over China’s construction of artificial reefs in the disputed waters.
On Monday, China’s defense ministry gave its first confirmation that Beijing had landed a military flight on Kagitingan Reef (Fiery Cross Reef) in the Spratly archipelago. The reef is also claimed by the Philippines.
On the day of Carter’s trip, Beijing said that one of its top military officials had visited a South China Sea island.
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