China's next generation of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), which have a range of 12,000 kms, have been revealed.
A piece of information revealed in a government environmental monitoring file has indirectly confirmed the existence of a new generation of Chinese ICBM, the Dongfeng-41 (DF-41) missile, a report on the website of state-run Global Times said.
Tang Bohu, a military commentator with Ifeng News, told the Daily that the confirmation of the existence of DF-41 missiles will give the international community, including the US, a new understanding of China's nuclear power.
"I believe revealing the information was unintentional. But sooner or later, China will demonstrate these new nuclear weapons at international military parades. Eventually, the weapons will be meant for deterrence," he said.
Song Zhongping, a Beijing-based military affairs commentator, said it is no surprise that China is researching the next generation of ICBMs.
"The development pattern for our military industry is deploying one generation of weaponry, researching the next and forecasting a third. Now that the DF-31 missiles have long been in service, it is normal that research into the next generation is underway," he told the Global Times.
According to Jane's Defense Weekly, the DF-41 missiles are designed to have a range of 12,000 kilometres, putting it among the world's longest-range missiles.
"With proper master of the satellite launching and recovery technologies, one can send a warhead to any place around the globe, in theory," Song said.
He added that what matters more than range is precision.
"The next generation should be able to carry both nuclear and regular warheads that can perform accurate attacks." Tang said it is widely speculated that the DF-41 missiles will be able to carry three nuclear warheads.
He said that the new generation were also likely to have better mobility as the launchers can cross more complicated terrain, and have better survivability in the event of a first strike.
Song noted that the new missiles would also have stronger penetration abilities and faster response times.
"Only with these advantages can they have the chance to quickly penetrate through the missile defence system of the US."
Song said China's development of the new missiles is aimed at maintaining military balance to protect national security, not to seek hegemony, while the US is trying to break it by being ambitious in improving military technologies in both defence and attack.
China has a "no first use" policy for nuclear weapons.
"The US has been building its missile defence network like a shield, which other countries' missiles cannot penetrate. This for sure stimulated other countries to sharpen their 'spears'.
"Otherwise, if the US has both the strongest shield and spear, they could impose an aggressive strategy on us, and we would be driven into passivity," Song said.