Back in August, China test-launched two missiles known as “aircraft-carrier killers.” It was revealed this week by a former Chinese military official that the missiles hit a moving ship in the South China Sea to showcase the precision of the weapons in response to US military activity in the region.
When the tests were initially reported, it was believed the missiles landed in the waters of the South China Sea. But a speech published on Wednesday by Wang Xiangsui, a former Chinese military officer, said the missiles hit a moving vessel, which was their intended target.
The missiles traveled thousands of kilometers. One missile, a DF-26B, was launched from China’s northwest province of Qinghai, and the other, DF-21D, was sent from China’s eastern Zhejiang province. The tests were done after a series of provocations from the US. Throughout the summer, the US sent aircraft carrier strike groups to the South China Sea and stepped up military flights over the disputed waters.
Since 2015, the US has sailed warships into the South China Sea to challenge China’s claims to islands in the waters, operations known as Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs). FONOPs are regularly done near the Paracel Islands, which is where the Chinese set up their target ship for the missile test.
“So several days later [after US aircraft carrier maneuvers], we launched the DF-21 and DF-26, and the missiles hit a vessel sailing south of the Paracel Islands,” Wang said. “Shortly after that, an American military attaché in Geneva complained and said it would lead to severe consequences if the missiles hit an American aircraft carrier. They see this as a show of force. But we are doing this because of their provocation.”