US intelligence agencies have leaked reports of secret new Chinese missile tests that could have important implications for Taiwan.
The reports have been published by national security journalist Bill Gertz on the Washington Free Beacon Web site.
Gertz said US intelligence agencies had monitored a fourth flight test last week of the Dong Feng-31A (DF-31A) intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
It was fired from China’s Wuzhai Space and Missile Test Center in Shanxi Province to an impact range in western China.
“Thursday’s DF-31A test came ten days after the flight test at Wuzhai of a silo-based CSS-4 Mod 2 long-range missile, and several weeks after flight tests of a new road-mobile DF-41 ICBM, on July 24, and a submarine-launched JL-2 missile on August 16,” Gertz wrote.
“China’s secretive military made no mention of any of the tests,” he said.
According to Gertz, US intelligence officials believe the DF-41 will eventually be outfitted with between three and 10 warheads.
“China is currently in the middle of a major strategic nuclear forces buildup that includes four new ICBMs — the DF-41, JL-2 [Julang-2], DF-31A, and another road-mobile missile called the DF-31,” Gertz wrote.
Richard Fisher, a specialist on China’s military with the International Assessment and Strategy Center, told the Taipei Times that the testing represents a new level of capability for China’s nuclear forces.
“It may mark the beginning of a new era in which China fields multiple ICBM types armed with multiple warheads,” Fisher said.
“Uncertainties concerning China’s nuclear missile developments are of direct importance to Taiwan,” he said.
“Any potential for China to undermine regional or Taiwanese confidence in the extended American nuclear deterrent has profound and potentially dire implications,” he said.
“For the PLA [People’s Liberation Army], nuclear checkmate of US forces would be a key part of any campaign against Taiwan,” he said.
Fisher said that were Japan to lose confidence in the extended US nuclear deterrent, it is quite well-positioned to develop both the nuclear warheads and long-range missiles to provide for its own deterrent.
Japan’s M-V solid fuel space launch vehicle was developed in part to provide the option to field a long-range ballistic missile if needed.
“Such a move by Japan could lead to similar reactions by South Korea, Vietnam, Australia and even Taiwan, which apparently ended its own nuclear weapon program in the 1980s following intervention by the [then US president Ronald] Reagan administration,” Fisher said.
“However, I am told that many of the engineers involved in this effort still reside in Taiwan,” he said.
According to Fisher, China shows “little inclination” to stop its nuclear and advanced conventional missile buildup that is undermining the US deterrent and shows “little to no interest” in the kind of transparency that might lower anxieties.
“China regularly signals that it wants American military power to depart from Asia and apparently is ready to plunge the region into a period of instability, even conflict, to emerge as its primary power,” Fisher said.
Word of the missile testing came as US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was visiting Beijing for high-level talks with Chinese leaders.