The Washington Times Daily - - WORLD -

Amid grow­ing fears of North Korean nu­clear mis­sile threats, China re­cently showed off a new and more lethal long-range nu­clear mis­sile of its own.

The DF-31AG, a vari­ant of the DF-31 road­mo­bile in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile (ICBM), was un­veiled July 30 dur­ing the an­nual mil­i­tary pa­rade mark­ing the found­ing of the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army.

Chi­nese state-run tele­vi­sion’s broad­cast of the pa­rade showed at least 16 of the new DF31AGs dur­ing a pa­rade in Zhurihe near a com­bat train­ing base in north­ern China.

Few de­tails were avail­able on the new mis­sile, shown mounted on an all-ter­rain mo­bile launcher. Chi­nese state me­dia de­clared the mis­sile car­ries mul­ti­ple war­heads and boasts a longer range than its ear­lier vari­ants, the DF-31 and DF-31A. The all-ter­rain mo­bile launcher rep­re­sents greater sur­viv­abil­ity of the mis­sile sys­tem against pre­emp­tive airstrikes be­cause the DF-31AG will be ca­pa­ble of hid­ing in moun­tain­ous ar­eas.

China has been up­load­ing its sin­gle-war­head mis­siles with mul­ti­ple, in­de­pen­dently tar­getable re-en­try ve­hi­cles or MIRVs, for the past three years. The ear­lier DF-31 vari­ants are equipped with a sin­gle war­head.

The dis­clo­sure of the DF-31AG was not a sur­prise. U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies have known of the de­vel­op­ment for the past sev­eral years.

De­fense of­fi­cials told In­side the Ring that the mis­sile was known as the DF-31B be­fore China of­fi­cially dis­closed it is called the DF-31AG.

The first flight test of the new mis­sile was de­tected Sept. 25, 2014, and first re­ported by this colum­nist. It was as­sessed as hav­ing greater range than the 31A, along mul­ti­ple war­heads.

The DF-31B is also be­lieved to have a ruggedi­zed mo­bile launcher for greater off-road ma­neu­ver­abil­ity.

The Na­tional Air and Space In­tel­li­gence Cen­ter, in its lat­est re­port on bal­lis­tic and cruise mis­sile threats, de­scribes China’s mis­sile forces as “the most ac­tive and di­verse bal­lis­tic mis­sile de­vel­op­ment pro­gram in the world.”

“It is de­vel­op­ing and test­ing offensive mis­siles, form­ing ad­di­tional mis­sile units, qual­i­ta­tively up­grad­ing mis­sile sys­tems, and de­vel­op­ing meth­ods to counter bal­lis­tic mis­sile de­fenses,” the re­port said.

China’s mis­sile forces are ex­pand­ing in both size and types, in­clud­ing con­ven­tional and nu­clear-armed sys­tems of vary­ing ranges.

China has around 40 DF-31s and DF-31As, and is also de­vel­op­ing a longer-range DF-41 ICBM that is said to be near­ing deployment.

Rick Fisher, an an­a­lyst who closely mon­i­tors the Chi­nese mil­i­tary, said the mul­ti­ple-war­head up­grade of the DF-31AG is a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in nu­clear power.

“It is clear that China is ac­cel­er­at­ing its build-up of nu­clear war­heads ca­pa­ble of tar­get­ing the United States,” said Mr. Fisher, a se­nior fel­low at the In­ter­na­tional As­sess­ment and Strat­egy Cen­ter. “In or­der to de­fend the cred­i­bil­ity of the U.S. ex­tended nu­clear de­ter­rent for U.S. al­lies, es­pe­cially given the added nu­clear threats from North Korea, it is im­per­a­tive that the U.S. re­de­ploy large num­bers of tac­ti­cal nu­clear weapons to U.S. forces.”

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