China has unveiled a new advanced missile government officials say can hit regional rivals India, Japan, and Taiwan, just days after Defense Secretary James Mattis left the region.
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) recently released a video of a military drill in China featuring the DF-16 medium-range ballistic missile, according to the Indian publication Hindustan Times.
State media reports did not reveal when or where the drill took place, but Beijing released the video a day after Mattis left Tokyo on Saturday, concluding his first trip abroad as defense secretary.
“Obviously we watch Chinese military developments with great interest. That they in and of itself is not cause for concern,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters during an off-camera press briefing at the Pentagon.
“Where we have concerns, and where we express our concerns, is when they unilaterally change the status quo, such as reclaiming and remilitarizing islands that are under dispute or in ways that otherwise bring additional tension or additional uncertainty to the region,” he said.
Mattis said during a joint press conference with Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada on Saturday that a U.S. policy recognizing islands at the center of a territorial dispute between China and Japan remains the same.
“Today the minister and I discussed the security situation and I made clear that our longstanding policy on the Senkaku Islands stands. The United States will continue to recognize Japanese administration of the islands, and as such article five of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty applies,” he said.
“Three ships entered the waters surrounding the uninhabited chain,” the Japan Coast Guard said in a statement, according to the Times.
Chinese state media outlet China Daily also issued a veiled threat to neighbors that the new advanced missile, first unveiled in September 2015, could challenge “foreign military installations” on the islands.
The article also quoted a retired Chinese major general saying the missile has a strike range of 1,000 kilometers, which would make it able to reach Okinawa, Japan.
The Pentagon said Tuesday it watches Chinese military developments “with great interest.”
U.S. tensions with China have risen since President Trump entered office. Shortly after defeating Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, Trump accepted a phone call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, challenging longtime U.S. diplomatic protocol and angering Chinese leaders who consider the country a breakaway province.
A commentary on the PLA’s website on the day Trump assumed office said the chances of war had become “more real.”