CHINA’S NEW LONG-RANGE MISSILE
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.”