Last Sunday alarmed Chinese took to social media to report a string of UFO sightings. But rather than flying saucers and extraterrestrials, what they had actually witnessed was a submarine-launched ballistic missile test, the Global Times said.
The newspaper came to that verdict after the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force posted an image on its weibo account of a missile in launch position with the message: “Do you believe in UFOs?”
Shortly afterwards the PLA Navy posted another photo of a missile being launched from the sea, and also asked: “Do you still believe in UFOs?”
The launch was probably part of a military exercise in the Bohai Sea, the newspaper said, and explained why residents of nearby provinces were reporting “a UFO with a glowing fiery tail streak across the sky”.
The speculation now is whether the missile deployed was the JL-3 – a weapon that can travel 14,000km, equipped with 10 independently guided nuclear warheads. This would be significant as the submarine-launched missile would be able to reach a wider range of targets than China’s intermediate-range arsenal.
The military hasn’t confirmed whether the JL-3 was tested successfully but media noted that the launch had happened at a similar time to Defence Minister Wei Fenghe’s speech to the Shangri-La Dialogue, the region’s leading security forum, in Singapore. A senior consultant to the military told the Global Times this was most likely a coincidence, although it was “important to showcase China’s deterrence capability to counter US provocations”.