China puts on show of force with DF-31B mobile ICBM missile test

PLA puts upgraded Dongfeng-31 system through its paces to underscore nuclear strength as US makes military pivot to Asia-Pacific region

The first flight test of an upgraded mobile intercontinental ballistic missile in the lead-up to National Day aimed to show the world that China was reinforcing its nuclear deterrent, military experts said yesterday.

The People’s Liberation Army launched a Dongfeng-31B on September 25 from the Wuzhai Missile and Space Test Centre – also known as the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre – in Shanxi province, according to US-based online newspaper The Washington Free Beacon.

The DF-31B is an upgraded version of the DF-31A and the launch was at least the second time the PLA’s Second Artillery Corps had tested a DF-31 missile in the past three months. In late July, the PLA conducted a flight test of a DF-31A in what was the fourth known flight test of that missile in two years.

The DF-31 system has an estimated range of nearly 10,000 kilometres – enough to deliver a nuclear warhead to the capitals of Europe or the west coast of the United States. The mobile missiles are designed specifically for travel over rugged terrain and in difficult road conditions.

Xu Guangyu , a Beijing-based retired PLA major general, said the test had a strategic aim.

“Beijing just wants to increase China’s military might and its nuclear strategic threat. It’s not really targeting the US or other countries,” Xu said.

“China needs to conduct intensive weapon tests and military drills because the [US-led build-up] now in the Asia-Pacific area is not good for Beijing.”

Earlier state media reports said Beijing would roll out the Dongfeng-41, a system designed to have a range of 12,000km, allowing it to hit anywhere in the US.

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