RAJESWARI PILLAI RAJAGOPALAN
Earlier this month, China tested its longest range intercontinental ballistic missile, DF-41. This solid-fueled road mobile missile, tested on April 12, is considered more advanced than earlier Chinese missiles of the ICBM-class such as the DF-31 and is reported to have the range to hit any part of the US mainland. Commenting on the test, US Strategic Command Commander Adm. Cecil Haney noted that China’s testing of missiles carrying multiple, independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs) reflect a growing focus and investment in both conventional and strategic forces. The DF-41 is certainly one of the newer missiles and may be considered as more potent, but is it a game changer in the Asia Pacific theatre?
The news about the testing was first reported by Bill Gertz in Washington Free Beacon on April 19. While there were reports that suggested that DF-41 development was halted sometime before 2000, clearly the programme has been pursued, though with some apparent interruptions. In 2013, the head of Taiwan’s National Security Bureau made a statement to the Taiwanese Parliament that China was still developing DF-41.
Two days after the DF-41 test was revealed, China’s Ministry of National Defence acknowledged its testing on April 12 and made a reference to it, but did not disclose the location. The ministry said, “It is common for us to conduct tests, within the territory as planned, for scientific research. Such tests are not aimed at any specific country and target,” though this latter claim must be met with skepticism as the missile is targeted clearly at the US. Beijing’s actions should be seen as clearly upping the ante in the nuclear arms race with the US.