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– Lord Des Browne
Vice Chairman, Nuclear Threat Initiative
Pentagon Sees Chinese Missile Advances
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The U.S. Defense Department annual report on China’s military power says that Beijing is developing new nuclear weapons delivery systems and is moving to deploy a new missile defense interceptor. The report, released Aug. 16, said China is developing two air-launched ballistic missiles, one of which may be nuclear weapons capable. That missile has been flight-tested five times, according to an April report in The Diplomat. This development is significant because air-launched ballistic missiles cannot be intercepted in the boost- or midcourse phase.

China displayed the DF-31AG intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), an enhanced version of the DF-31A, for the first time in 2017 at the People’s Liberation Army’s 90th anniversary parade, the Defense Department report notes. China “appears to be considering” additional launch options for the DF-41 ICBM, which is still under development after being tested 10 times, including rail-mobile and silo-based launch options, the report notes. The report also cited Chinese development work on a new nuclear-capable bomber, with an estimated range of at least 8,500 kilometers (5,300 miles), that could debut within a decade.

The HQ-19 midcourse missile defense interceptor, which was still being tested in 2016, “may have begun preliminary operation in [w]estern China,” the report states. The system is designed to intercept medium-range missiles, likely from regional countries such as India and North Korea.—ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE