China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) launched two missiles, including one known as an “aircraft-carrier killer,” into the South China Sea on Wednesday morning, a Chinese military source told the South China Morning Post (SCMP).
The DF-21D “can target aircraft carriers and other warships underway at sea at a range of up to 1,500 kilometers [932 miles],” Reuters reported, citing Chinese and Western military analysts. The DF-26 missile is “dual-capable, which means it can deliver both nuclear and conventional warheads and is thought to have a range of approximately 4,000 kilometers (2,490 miles),” according to the Federation of American Scientists.
“Under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a Cold War-era agreement aimed at reducing the threat of nuclear conflict, the United States and Russia are banned from deploying this class of missiles [land-based, intermediate-range ballistic and cruise missiles, including the DF-26 and DF-21D], with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (3,418 miles). But Beijing, unrestrained by the INF Treaty, is deploying them in massive numbers,” Reuters reported in April 2019.
In August 2019, the U.S. withdrew from the INF treaty, citing China and Russia’s deployment of such banned weapons as justification.
Hainan’s Maritime Safety Administration announced on August 21 that the PLA would hold military exercises in an area near the Paracel Islands from August 24-29. The notice “warned outside vessels to steer five nautical miles clear of the drill area but otherwise gave no details,” Radio Free Asia reported at the time.
Located in the north of the South China Sea, Vietnam’s Paracel Islands are a disputed island chain illegally claimed by Beijing. China’s PLA has established a military base on the Paracels’ largest islet, Woody Island. According to the August 21 notice by Hainan’s Maritime Safety Administration, the boundaries of the PLA exercises scheduled for this week include Woody Island and the waters northeast of the Paracel Islands near Pratas Atoll, claimed by Taiwan. Wednesday’s missile launch was “aimed at improving China’s ability to deny other forces access to the South China Sea,” the SCMP’s PLA source said.
The Chinese military has significantly increased its illegal encroachment on other nations’ sovereign territory within the South China Sea in recent months. Responding to this on Wednesday, the U.S. State Department announced that it would impose travel restrictions on Chinese officials supporting Beijing’s “militarization” of the international waters.
“[T]he Department of State will begin imposing visa restrictions on People’s Republic of China (PRC) individuals responsible for, or complicit in, either the large-scale reclamation, construction, or militarization of disputed outposts in the South China Sea, or the PRC’s use of coercion against Southeast Asian claimants to inhibit their access to offshore resources,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
The U.S. State Department will also sanction twenty-four Chinese state-owned companies over Beijing’s belligerent actions in the South China Sea.
“In addition, the [U.S.] Department of Commerce has added 24 PRC state-owned enterprises to the Entity List, including several subsidiaries of China Communications Construction Company (CCCC). Since 2013, the PRC has used its state-owned enterprises to dredge and reclaim more than 3,000 acres on disputed features in the South China Sea, destabilizing the region, trampling on the sovereign rights of its neighbors, and causing untold environmental devastation,” Pompeo said.
China unfairly competes with Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, and the Philippines for territorial control in the highly valuable South China Sea, located along global shipping routes and rich in natural resources.