China tested new anti-ballistic missile in South China Sea, U.S. admiral says

July 19 (UPI) — China demonstrated a new anti-ship ballistic missiles, with nuclear capabilities, last month, the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command chief said.

Adm. Philip Davidson told the Aspen Security Forum on Thursday that six missiles fired into the South China Sea included a new, submarine-launched anti-ship ballistic missile called the JL-3. The tests came after Wei Fenghe, China’s defense minister, offered threatening remarks in June regarding China’s claim of sovereignty over disputed islands in the South China Sea at a Singapore security conference.

Wei’s intimidations, Davidson said, were “quite chilling. Not only did [Wei] make it clear that he didn’t think Asia and the Western Pacific was any place for America, he said Asia wasn’t even for Asians. It was for the Chinese.”

At a July 8 conference in China, Wei admitted that a multi-trillion dollar Chinese global development program known as the Belt and Road Initiative includes a component for military expansion, something not previously acknowledged by Beijing.

On Thursday, Davidson said the initiative “was indeed a way to put a military foothold within other places around the globe. Within hours of that [Wei’s June comments], they shot six anti-ship ballistic missiles, new ones that they have developed, into the South China Sea.”

Davidson added that it was the first time the missile has been tested at sea. The missiles are believed by security analysts to be variants of Chinese DF-21D missiles, which can maneuver to target moving ships at sea from launch points several hundred miles away.

The test-firing was denounced by the Pentagon as a violation of Chinese President Xi Jinping‘s promise not to militarize the disputed islands.

Davidson added that although China and the United states remain in a dialogue at the military level, a crisis communication mechanism is called for.

“[Being] competitive does not mean don’t engage. We do engage at the military level,” he said. “[But] the U.S. has a long-standing request with China. For me, to have a crisis communication with the Southern Theater Command, which manages the South China Sea, and [China’s] Eastern Theatre Command — they have yet to respond to that ask.”

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