China’s defense ministry said Wednesday that the military successfully test-fired a new type of missile into waters near the Korean Peninsula, an announcement that comes amid Chinese anger over the deployment in South Korea of a sophisticated U.S. missile defense system. A brief statement on the ministry’s website said the test took place recently in the Bohai Gulf and “achieved the intended result.” It did not reveal the type of missile or provide other details. Both the timing and the location of the test could be significant, although the test may also have been scheduled well in advance. The Bohai Gulf lies just west of the Yellow Sea, which separates China from the Korean Peninsula. The defense ministry said last month that it would respond to the missile defense system’s deployment by continuing to test new types of weapons under conditions simulating actual combat.
Beijing opposes the system, known by its acronym, THAAD, because its radars are allegedly capable of peering deep into China, allowing the U.S. and its allies to better detect rocket launches and aircraft movements. Washington says the system is necessary to guard against North Korean missile threats and calls China’s concerns unfounded. Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Wednesday that China had no intention of softening its opposition. “China’s position on the issue of THAAD is clear and consistent. We hope South Korea can pay high attention to China’s concerns and handle the relevant issue in a proper way,” Geng said.
The Chinese weapon tested was likely a DF-26 intermediate range missile being developed to sink warships, including U.S. aircraft carriers, said Song Zhongping, an expert on military affairs and commentator for Hong Kong’s Phoenix TV. The Bohai Gulf is the preferred location for such tests because it is Chinese territorial waters, Song said. However, while the DF-26 could be useful against THAAD, China also has several other missiles that are up to the task, he said. “It hasn’t much to do with THAAD directly, but it is a kind of warning” to South Korea and the U.S., Song said.