CHINA THE 50TH

Fears are arising among US defense experts and State Department personnel following a successful Chinese missile test. The July 23 test is being called an anti-missile test, but it's feared the test was actually part of a program an anti-satellite weapon, Defense News reports.

This is the third successful test of an ASAT missile since 2007, with the two previous tests using the SC-19 missile. In the first test, China destroyed a weather satellite, and earned international condemnation for significantly adding to Earth's already immense orbital debris field.

"This latest space interceptor test demonstrates a potential PLA aspiration to restrict freedom of space flight over China," Mark Stokes, of the Asia-oriented Project 2049 Institute said, according to Defense News.

Considering how tight information coming out of the PRC is, you may be wondering why analysts believe this is an ASAT test and not, as the PRC says, a simple anti-ballistic-missile test.

Hans Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project for the Federation of American Scientists, points out not just the complexity of developing a dedicated ABM system – both Russia and the US had widely publicized troubles developing their systems, making a Chinese move seem unlikely – but the potentially destabilizing effect the move could have on the region as that an ASAT test is more likely.

"If Indian military planners concluded that a Chinese ABM system was capable enough to threaten the effectiveness of India's small nuclear deterrent aimed at China, it could potentially cause Indian planners to increase the number of long-range missiles it plans to deploy to deter China, or, which would be a worrisome and destabilizing development, begin to develop and deploy MIRVed [multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle] warheads on Indian ballistic missiles to overwhelm a Chinese ABM system," Kristensen told Defense News.

Regardless of the test's actual purpose, this latest move by the PRC further highlights the country's growing capabilities. Both the ABM and the ASAT theories are particularly bad news, and will merit further watching of the country's missile-based activity.