China fires ‘Guam killer’ missile into South China Sea as Esper tours the region

The DF-26 missile is displayed during a military parade in China (YouTube screenshot)

China fired into the South China Sea what it has dubbed its “Guam killer” missile even as the U.S. Secretary of Defense was visiting the region to shore up U.S. alliances against China.

According to Taiwan News, China launched its “Guam killer missile, the DF-26B, from Qinghai Province, last Aug. 26. This missile was dubbed the “Guam killer” because it was the first Chinese-made missile capable of striking U.S. military facilities in Guam, where Andersen Air Force Base and Naval Base Guam are located.

Aside from the DF-26B, China also fired into the South China Sea what it calls its “aircraft carrier killer missile” — the DF-21D — a variant of the DF-21, which is an anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) that China claims is capable of striking an aircraft carrier.

According to the South China Morning Post, the missile launches came one day after China said a US U-2 spy plane entered a no-fly zone without permission during a Chinese live-fire naval drill in the Bohai Sea off its north coast.

The missile launches were aimed at improving China’s ability to deny other forces access to the South China Sea, a disputed region, the South China Morning Post reported, citing an unnamed source.

The U.S. Department of Defense, whose head, Secretary Mark T. Esper is currently on an Asia-Pacific tour, said it is concerned about the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) recent decision to conduct military exercises, including the firing of ballistic missiles, around the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea on August 23-29.

“Conducting military exercises over disputed territory in the South China Sea is counterproductive to easing tensions and maintaining stability. The PRC’s actions, including missile tests, further destabilize the situation in the South China Sea. Such exercises also violate PRC commitments under the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea to avoid activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability, and call into question its motivations with ongoing negotiations for a Code of Conduct between China and ASEAN,” DOD stated in its response to China’s missile launches.

DOD added that the missile launch is the latest in a long string of PRC actions to assert unlawful maritime claims and disadvantage its Southeast Asian neighbors in the South China Sea.

“The PRC’s actions stand in contrast to its pledge to not militarize the South China Sea and are in contrast to the United States’ vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region, in which all nations, large and small, are secure in their sovereignty, free from coercion, and able to pursue economic growth consistent with accepted international rules and norms,” DOD stated.

The Department of Defense already alerted the PRC in July that it would continue to monitor the situation with the expectation that the PRC will reduce its militarization and coercion of its neighbors in the South China Sea.

“The PRC chose to escalate its exercise activities by firing ballistic missiles. We urge all parties to exercise restraint and not undertake military activities that could threaten freedom of navigation and aggravate disputes in the South China Sea,” DoD stated.