CHINA’S launch of four “aircraft-carrier destroying” missiles in the South China Sea could raise the risk of a military clash with the US, experts say.
Fears are growing that the act could embolden hawks on both sides as China launched its powerful Dongfeng missiles into disputed territory on Wednesday.
China launched the missiles – including the “aircraft-carrier killers” DF-26B and DF-21D – into an area between the southern island province of Hainan and the disputed Parcel Islands.
The missile landing areas were within a zone that Hainan maritime safety authorities declared on Friday would be off limits because of military exercises from Monday to Saturday.
It came just a day after a US spy plane, the U-2, entered a no-fly zone without permission while Chinese military personnel undertook a live-fire naval drill in the Bohai Sea off China’s northern coast.
The deadly DF-26 missile, launched from the northwestern province of Qinghai, has a range of 4,000km and can be used to strike targets on the ground and at sea.
The other missile was a DF-21D which lifted off from Zhejiang province in the east.
Diplomatic ties between Beijing and Washington have frayed amidst a bitter trade war and a blame game over the coronavirus crisis.
Derek Grossman, security expert at think tank Rand, told the South China Morning Post that the launch would only heighten tensions between the two superpowers.
He said: “It seems unlikely … that the US military will back down, since there is now a whole-of-government effort to compete with and counter China both regionally and globally.
“It is more likely, however, that armed combat would come about due to miscalculation”.
<img src="https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/NINTCHDBPICT000185845398.jpg”>The other missile was the ‘carrier killer’ Dongfeng-21D (DF-21D).which is designed to hit warships at sea at a range of up to 1,500km
He said that this potential for “miscalculation” meant there remained a possibility of military conflict by accident.
Mr Grossman added: “If China were to fire another DF-21D missile, and it came close to a US carrier traversing the region, the US military might respond with force because it thought the missile simply missed its target.
“Then the situation could escalate from there.”
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'TIN SHED ON WHEELS'
In a statement this morning reported by CNN, the Pentagon said: “DoD can confirm that the Chinese military launched four medium-range missiles Wednesday from mainland China.
“The launch appears to have been part of a previously announced exercise”.
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