China's Defense Ministry Confirms Multi-Warhead Missile Test

Claims 'normal' test did not target U.S.

DF-5 launch
DF-5 launch
February 10, 2017

The recent Chinese missile launch with 10 warheads was a normal "scientific" test and not targeted at any foreign nation, according to China's Defense Ministry.

The ministry was responding to a report in the Washington Free Beacon revealing a Chinese DF-5C missile was flight tested last month with 10 multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles, or MIRVs. The test represented an increase in China's multiple-warhead nuclear missiles.

The Chinese ministry commented on the missile test in a statement to China's state-run Shenzhen television on Feb. 6 that was widely quoted in other news outlets, including the People's Daily, the official Communist Party newspaper.

The Chinese claimed reports of the test were aimed at "hyping" China's strategic and conventional military buildup.

The report said China follows a "defensive nuclear strategy" and will not change its claimed "no-first-use" nuclear policy, which states China will not be the first to use nuclear arms in a conflict.

However, adding up to 10 warheads to missiles initially equipped with a single warhead is viewed by U.S. defense officials as a major shift in China's nuclear missile arsenal.

U.S. intelligence agencies last year detected China uploading single-warhead DF-5 missiles with three warheads.

The recent 10-warhead missile test, detected by U.S. intelligence agencies over western China, comes amid heightened tensions between the United States and China over recent statements by President Trump and Trump administration officials questioning U.S.-China ties.

On Thursday, Trump told Chinese leader Xi Jinping that the United States would continue its policy of not formally recognizing Taiwan as an independent state, the so-called "one China policy."

The concession to Beijing appeared to be aimed at easing tensions that have included Chinese state media calling for China to build up its nuclear forces for use in a future conflict with the United States.

During confirmation hearings, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told senators that the United States would demand China halt island-building in the South China Sea. He said the United States is prepared to block Chinese access to the newly created islands in areas of the sea claimed by several regional states. Trump also angered China by accepting a phone call in December from Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a high-profile visit to Washington on Friday to meet with Trump. Japan has grown increasingly alarmed by Chinese maritime territorial encroachment.

Trump told reporters at a press conference with Abe that his call with Xi was a "very, very good conversation."

"I think we are in the process of getting along very well and I think that we'll also be very much of a benefit to Japan," Trump said.

"I believe that will all work out very well for everybody, China, Japan, the United States and everybody in the region," he added.

Trump vowed to create "a level playing field" with China over its unfair currency practices.

Abe said amid an "increasingly difficult security environment" in Asia, Trump reaffirmed that the U.S.-Japan Defense Treaty covers the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea that China claims as its territory and calls the Diaoyu Islands.

Li Wei, professor at the People's Liberation Army National Defense University, told Shenzhen television that the United States is likely to maintain its position of dominance in relation to China's nuclear forces. The United States believes China's development of the multi-warhead DF-5C undermines the U.S. nuclear dominance, he reportedly said.

In addition to the DF-5C, China is building a new road-mobile long-range missile, the DF-41, that will be armed with multiple warheads. That missile was flight tested in April with two inert warheads.

Published under: China