China and Iran, two countries that top President Trump’s enemies list, are pushing back against his tough talk this week with showy and provocative military drills.
Iran conducted military exercises and rolled out new weapons that its leaders said would help national defense, and China tested a new missile following Trump’s Twitter assault on Beijing’s expansion in the South China Sea.
Iran’s defense minister, Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehqan, displayed the country’s newest weapons, including a guided missile, a grenade launcher, a rifle and a pistol. The arms would boost the military’s capabilities in individual combat and in air defense, he said, according to the Tasnim News Agency.
Iran on Saturday warned Washington against any hostile actions.
“If the enemy makes a mistake our roaring missiles will hit their targets,” Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Aerospace Force, said during massive air defense drills, the state-owned Fars News Agency reported.
Iran also warned that if attacked, its missiles would target the U.S. 5th Fleet based in Bahrain, American installations in the Indian Ocean and the Israeli city of Tel Aviv.
“These points are all within the range of Iran’s missile systems, and they will be razed to the ground if the enemy makes a mistake,” Mojtaba Zonour, a member of the Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission. “And only seven minutes is needed for the Iranian missile to hit Tel Aviv.”
The threats came after the Trump administration imposed sanctions Friday on 25 Iranian individuals and entities supporting the Revolutionary Guards’ ballistic missile program.
The sanctions were triggered by an Iranian ballistic missile test on Jan. 29 that the U.S. said violated a United Nations Security Council resolution that prohibits launching missiles capable of carrying a nuclear weapon. Iran said the missile was not capable of carrying a nuclear weapon and that testing defensive weapons is its right.
China, meanwhile, tested a multi-warhead, nuclear-capable missile that has a 600-mile range and can reach targets in Taiwan, Korea and Japan, as well as moving ships at sea. The missile test appeared on a defense ministry website last week, according to the Associated Press. The DF-16 missile is launched from a mobile launch pad, making it hard to find and destroy before launch. It is designed to extend China’s reach over waters it seeks to control, the AP reported.
The missile’s warhead can adjust its path to strike slow-moving targets and evade anti-missile defenses such as the U.S. Patriot system deployed by Taiwan.
China’s test comes on the heels of several moves by Trump that China interpreted as threatening. After taking a congratulatory call from the president of Taiwan, which China considers a breakaway province, Trump said he would not be bound by the “one China” policy that has underpinned U.S.-China relations since the 1970s. When Beijing complained about the phone call, he criticized China for devaluing its currency to hurt U.S. imports and building “a massive military complex in the middle of the South China Sea.”
China’s recent missile tests and drills point to a policy of pre-emptive military strikes against U.S. targets if Beijing thinks its strategic interests are threatened and deterrence has failed, according to Thomas Shugart, a U.S. Navy submarine warfare officer and a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think tank.
“Such a pre-emptive strike appears consistent with available information about China’s missile force doctrine,” Shugart wrote in War on the Rocks, on online security publication.
China’s state-controlled media said the U.S. would need to “wage war” to stop China’s access to a series of artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea. The fortified islands are in oil-rich waters that are home to busy shipping lanes and are also claimed by the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and Brunei.