BEIJING (AP) — China’s military test-fired two missiles into the South China Sea, including a “carrier killer” military analysts suggest might have been developed to attack U.S. forces, a newspaper reported Thursday.
The DF-26B and DF-21D missiles fired Wednesday targeted an area between the southern island province of Hainan and the Paracel Islands, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported, citing unidentified sources close to the Chinese military.
The Ministry of Defense said the People's Liberation Army conducted military exercises in the area but gave no confirmation of missiles being fired or other details.
"Based on annual military training arrangements, the military conducted exercises around the Nansha Islands and the waters and airspace of the northern part of the Xisha Islands," said the spokesman, Wu Qian, using the Chinese names for the Spratly Islands and the Paracels to the north. “The exercises do not target any other country.”
Disputes over control of the South China Sea, one of the world's busiest trade routes, are a growing irritant in Beijing's relations with Washington and its southern neighbors.
The Trump administration this year rejected most of Beijing’s claims to sovereignty over the majority of the sea, portions of which also are claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines and other governments. Over the last few years, China has deployed troops, aircraft, radar and missiles stations on some of the seven man-made islands it built atop corral reefs, allowing it to expand its military reach beyond its shores.
Wednesday’s launches followed Chinese complaints that a U.S. U2 spy plane entered a “no fly zone” declared by Beijing during a military drill off its northern coast.
The DF-21 is unusually accurate and was dubbed “carrier killer” by military analysts who believe it was developed to target U.S. aircraft carriers that might be involved in a potential conflict with China.
The DF-26B was launched from the northwestern province of Qinghai while the DF-21D was fired from Zhejiang province south of Shanghai on the east coast, The South China Morning Post said.
The DF-26 is believed to be capable of carrying nuclear or conventional warheads. That would violate the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty signed by Washington and Moscow during the Cold War. The Trump administration cited China’s development of the DF-26 and similar weapons when it withdrew from the treaty last year.
On Wednesday, the U.S. State Department said it was imposing sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for the military buildup in the South China Sea.
Apart from U.S. travel bans against an undisclosed number of Chinese officials including business people, the Commerce Department said it had added 24 state-owned Chinese enterprises to its commercial blacklist. That means most U.S. exports to those firms must be licensed by the federal government and overcome a presumption of denial.