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Beijing stoked fears in the region after a source close to the Chinese military said in August that an “aircraft-carrier killer” and one other missile were launched into the South China Sea as a warning to the US. One of the missiles, a DF-26B, was launched from the northwestern province of Qinghai, while the other, a DF-21D, lifted off from Zhejiang, a province in the east of the country. The move represents a drastic escalation in an already fragile standoff between two of the world’s biggest nuclear powers. Both missiles targeted areas between Hainan province and the Paracel Islands according to Beijing’s forces, areas contested by smaller nations such as Vietnam and Taiwan.
In fact, China launched a series of ballistic missiles into the sea, with state-run media warning that “China does not fear a war”.
It comes amid warnings that China’s military is doubling down in its pursuit of dominance in the South China Sea.
China has built up a significant military presence in the South China Sea as the country controversially tries to gain control in the region.
Described by many as “island fortresses”, China has engulfed the South China Sea with man-made island bases and has been accused of forming them specifically for military purposes.
The moving of its aircraft carriers, airstrips and weapons into the region has earned the cluster of bases the nickname: “The Great Wall of Sand”.
Photographs published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer showed cargo ships and supply vessels, which appeared to be delivering construction materials to the China-controlled islands.
Other images show runways, hangars, control towers, helipads and radomes, as well as a series of multistorey buildings that China has built on reefs.
The firing of missiles comes amid fears of reduced limits on nuclear warheads.
The US officially withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty on August 2, 2019, sparking fears that a new arms race could ensue.
The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty signed between Washington and the Soviet Union barred the use of the two nations’ land-based ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and missile launchers.
This kind of weaponry can hit targets from intermediate-range, set at distances between 500km range and 5,500km range depending on the type of system.
President Donald Trump announced in October 2018 that he wanted to pull the US out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), accusing Moscow of violating the terms of the nuclear arms agreement.
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But the Kremlin has rejected the accusations, stressing that the scrapping of the INF treaty would force Russia to take measures to ensure its security.
Now both countries are testing missiles systems which would have previously been banned under the 1987 agreement.
China, as seen in the South China Sea, also poses a threat.
After President Trump withdrew from the accord, his then-defence secretary Mark Esper told reporters that he wanted to counter China’s massive missile inventory “sooner rather than later”.
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