China Says Third Missile-Defense Test in Four Years Successful

China said its third anti-missile test in four years was a success, indicating progress in developing missile-defense technology.

The People’s Liberation Army carried out a “land-based anti-missile technology experiment,” according to a statement posted on the Defense Ministry website yesterday. The test “achieved the desired objectives,” it said, without giving further details.

China has boosted defense spending an average of more than 10 percent over the past two decades as it transforms its growing economic clout into growing military muscle. China says the missile program is defensive in nature and not targeted at any country, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

“The anti-satellite and missile defense technologies have steadily improved and can now manage to intercept missiles in flight,” according to Yue Gang, a retired colonel in the People’s Liberation Army’s from General Staff Department. “But there haven’t been operational military deployment yet.”

China said it held its first anti-missile test in January 2010, followed by a second successful firing in January 2013.

The fact that the army has held three successful tests indicates the China’s missile program is entering “a new stage,” Yue said.

China has been expanding its missile technology since 2007, when it successfully shot down a defunct weather satellite with a modified ballistic missile. The test sparked an international outcry because it created around 3,000 pieces of space debris.

Not Operational

“It’s true China wants to grasp anti-satellite techniques and enhance missile-defense capabilities, and it did conduct some successful tests,” said Wang Ya’nan, deputy editor-in-chief of Aerospace Knowledge magazine. “But it’s far from forming an operational anti-missile shield.”

China’s new anti-missile test came after 12 domestic airports this week were ordered to slash one quarter of their daily flights through the middle of August. The restrictions were imposed because the People’s Liberation Army is conducting “high frequency exercises” in the areas affected, according to state-controlled broadcaster CCTV, which didn’t give the exact nature of the drills.

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