Aug. 30 – China has announced this week that they have recently test-fired a new generation inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) that is capable of carrying up to 10 nuclear warheads. The missile, called Dongfeng-41, has a strike range of 14,000 kilometers.
The announcement, which was broadcasted on China’s state-run CCTV, said that “China last month tested a new generation of intercontinental ballistic missile, the Dongfeng-41, or DF-41, which is believed to have a maximum strike distance of 14,000 km.”
In a rare occurrence, the announcement also contained video footage of mobile missile units in action.
Perhaps provocatively, the announcement also said that “the new missile’s mobility, precession and war head yield combined give China a first strike capability.” China claims, however, that it would never be the first one to use nuclear weapons, and that its arsenal is strictly designed as a deterrent and for counter-attack in the event of a nuclear strike against its territory.
On Tuesday, China’s CCTV also reported that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) mobile missile units have been undergoing training in different parts of the country to become familiarized with local, climatic conditions.
This missile launch is of significant strategic importance for India. China’s test-fire has occurred in the aftermath of India’s own launch of its Agni-V missile, which has the capability to reach several cities deep within China. It then begs the question, is China’s recent launch in reaction to India’s own missile launch?
At a time when China and India have been militarizing their shared border within the Himalayas, such missile diplomacy is an unwanted addition to already tense Sino-Indian relations.
High-level interactions and negotiations between China and India, however, are set to increase. China’s Defense Minister, General Liang Guanglie, is due to visit India for official meetings from September 2, 2012. This will be the first visit from a Chinese defense minister to India in the past seven years.
The purpose of the trip is to deepen military ties between the nuclear-armed neighbors, especially along their heavily-armed Himalayan border. It is expected that successful negotiations will result in the creation of confidence building measures, and possibly the revival of their “hand-in-hand” bilateral exercises (which have been placed on hold since 2010 after China denied an Indian general a visa).
In an official statement, the Indian government noted that measures to increase “peace and tranquility” along the Sino-Indian border is on the agenda. The government further stated that “the two sides will also discuss measures to promote defense cooperation between their armed forces.”
The overall situation is thus quite positive. In recent years the militarization of the border between China and India has been a contentious issue – any confidence building measures that can be put in place will only serve to decrease tension in the region. However, further testing of nuclear-capable ICBMs could potentially inject a degree of uncertainty into the strategic calculations of both sides. Nonetheless, continued high-level interaction between China and India can only help to preserve the positive relations between the Asian giants.