Chinese provincial agency may have confirmed secret long-range missile

BEIJING Fri Aug 1, 2014 7:38am EDT

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BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese provincial department appeared to have inadvertently confirmed the existence of an intercontinental ballistic missile that may be able to carry several nuclear warheads and travel as far as the United States.

The state-backed Global Times tabloid carried a report about the missile in its online edition on Friday based on an internet posting by the Shaanxi Provincial Environmental Monitoring Center Station, which said a military installation in the province was developing the weapons.

The Chinese government has never acknowledged the existence of the Dongfeng-41 (DF-41) missile but the U.S. Department of Defense said in a 2014 report that it could carry a payload of multiple nuclear warheads.

Analysts have said the missile could have a range of about 12,000 km (7,500 miles).

The Global Times carried a screenshot of the provincial monitoring station's online notice about the missile.

The paper said the missile was "a strategic trump card that is without a doubt the most mysterious and most capable of deterrence".

But both the Global Times report and the station's notice were later taken down.

The Global Times follows developments in China's military closely and has frequently revealed new technology including China's stealth fighter jets.

It is generally seen as getting more leeway in publishing sensitive information because it is owned by the ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily newspaper.

The U.S. Defence Department said in its report that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Second Artillery unit continued to modernize its nuclear forces by enhancing its intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The state-run Xinhua news agency has referred to the PLA's Second Artillery force as the "core force of China for strategic deterrence" under direct command of the powerful Central Military Commission.

(Reporting By Megha Rajagopalan; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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