China has mobilised its DF-26 “ship killer” missile to north-west China’s plateau and desert areas, on the back of their Vice Admiral’s threat to “sink two aircraft carriers” following a US warship passing through the Taiwan Strait and close to the Paracel Islands.
The islands are claimed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan, with the USS McCampbell asserting international free passage rules, which China has chosen to ignore, insisting the nation has traditional sovereignty over the entirety of the South and East China seas.
Despite an international arbitration court rejecting China's claim over the area, the nation insist the USS McCampbell trespassed on its waters.
The deployment of the D-26 missiles is in direct response to this "trespass", according to China's state-run media Global Times.
The weapon is China's new generation of intermediate-range ballistic missile capable of targeting medium and large ships at sea, with a reported range of 4,500 kilometres, which covers the entire South China Sea.
The government mouthpiece threatened that the DF-26's range makes it "capable of striking targets including US naval bases in Guam in the western Pacific" and noted that the mobilisation of the missiles "is a good reminder that China is capable of safeguarding its territory".
The missile also has the capability to carry conventional and nuclear warheads, according to the Global Times.
Due to the range of the DF-26, it doesn't need to be positioned close to the Taiwan Strait or the disputed Paracel Islands, and can be launched "deep in the country's interior", which a Global Times interviewed expert said is "more difficult to intercept".
The unnamed expert also noted that "during the initial phase of a ballistic missile launch, the missile is relatively slow and not difficult to detect, making it an easier target for enemy anti-missile installations. After the missile enters a later stage, its speed is so high that chances for interception are significantly lower".
The US has called on its international allies to continue to contest Beijing's attempts to control shipping lanes in recent weeks, with China recently completing work on a number of fortresses on coral reefs, and then insisting nations respect the 12 nautical mile sovereign territorial claims on them.
It's the first time the DF-26 missiles have made a close-up public appearance since coming into service with the People's Liberation Army Rocket Force.
The missile is currently attached to a brigade within the PLA Rocket Force.