BEIJING/MOSCOW – China has reportedly deployed advanced Dongfeng-41 ICBMs in Heilongjiang Province, which borders Russia, according to reports based on images.
“Pictures of China’s Dongfeng-41 ballistic missile were exposed on Chinese mainland websites,” the Global Times said citing reports in “some Hong Kong and Taiwan media.”
The Global Times works under the auspices of the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, though the former tends to be more controversial.
“It was revealed that the pictures were taken in Heilongjiang Province. Military analysts believe that this is perhaps the second Dongfeng-41 strategic missile brigade and it should be deployed in northeastern China,” the report in the Chinese daily adds.
The DF-41 is a three-stage solid-propellant missile, which is estimated to have a range of up to 15,000km and be capable of delivering up to 10 MIRVed nuclear warheads. China is yet to show the ICBM to the general public during a military parade or any similar event. Most information of the advanced weapon remains highly classified.
There is speculation that China plans to deploy at least three brigades of DF-41s throughout the country. The image leak may have been timed with Trump’s inauguration, with the new president expected to take a confrontational stance towards China, according to the Global Times’ report.
Before taking office, Donald Trump angered Beijing by threatening to end the ‘One China policy’, which acknowledges continental China as the only Chinese nation and rejects Taiwan’s claim to be one. He also said he would pressure Beijing on economic issues like its monetary policy and trade barriers.
Moscow said it will not ignore the actions of China, and Russia’s missile defense grouping in the Far East will be strengthened.
“Of course we will respond,” First deputy chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Defense and Security Frants Klintsevich told Sputnik on Tuesday.
However, military analysts say the alleged deployment of the DF-41 near Russia’s border should not be read as a threat to Russia.
According to military analyst Konstantin Sivkov, DF-41 missiles placed near Russia’s border are a smaller threat than if they were placed deeper in the Chinese territory. “Such missiles usually have a very large ‘dead zone’ [area within minimal range that cannot be attacked by a weapon]
“The ICBMs would not be able to target Russia’s Far East and most of Eastern Siberia from the Heilongjiang Province,” he added.
The Kremlin agreed with the assessment, saying that China is Russia’s “strategic partner in political and economic senses.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said earlier in the day the reported deployment did not pose a threat to Moscow, underlining that China was a strategic partner and ally of Russia.
“Certainly any action in terms of the development of China’s armed forces, if this information is true, any military development in China is not perceived by us as a threat to our country,” Peskov said.