BEIJING (Dispatches) — China says it has successfully intercepted a missile in flight, in a test of an anti-ballistic missile system that could improve its defenses as it presses its territorial claims.
A brief statement from the Defense Ministry late Sunday gave no details, but said the test was purely defensive in nature and was not aimed at any foreign nations.
Missiles are a major component of China’s defense and are the backbone of its space program, which has launched astronauts and components to the nation’s orbiting space station.
China, along with its ally Russia, has repeatedly expressed opposition to the U.S. deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system in South Korea.
China argued the equipment’s powerful radar could penetrate into its territory. China and Russia have also held simulated anti-missile drills.
The missile interception test comes as China has been warning the U.S. against interference in the affairs of the self-governing island of Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own territory to be annexed by military force if necessary. A conflict over Taiwan would likely bring in the U.S., which is the island’s main source of weaponry and is legally bound to regard threats to it as a matter of “grave concern.”
China is also engaged in dispute with the U.S. over its provocative navigation in the South China Sea.
China is seen as backing Russia in its operation in Ukraine, although it is not known to have provided material support. The conflict has brought new attention to Taiwan and whether it could withstand a Chinese assault.
Chinese military expert Song Zhongping said China has conducted such tests in the past, but is seeking to make a point by announcing the latest one.
“The reasons for China to make it public are because of military transparency and effective deterrence to some country,” Song said.
In 2016, the Defense Ministry confirmed it was pressing ahead with anti-missile system tests after pictures appeared on state television.
Beijing says such technology is needed for national defense and security.