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India test-fires 'China killer' missile capable of reaching Beijing, Europe

India announced the successful test launch of a new nuclear-capable missile that would give it the ability to strike the major Chinese cities of Beijing and Shanghai for the first time. Msnbc.com's Dara Brown reports.

Updated at 3:45 a.m. ET: India test-fired a nuclear-capable, long-range missile capable of reaching deep inside China and Europe Thursday, television stations showed, putting the emerging Asian power into an elite club of nations with intercontinental nuclear defense capabilities.

A scientist at the launch site said the launch was successful, minutes after television images showed the rocket blasting through clouds from an island off India's east coast.


Footage showed the rocket, with a range of more than 3,100 miles, blasting through clouds from an island off India's east coast. The defense minister said the test was "immaculate." 

 

"Today's launch represents another milestone in our quest for our security, preparedness and to explore the frontiers of science," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in a congratulatory message to the scientists who developed the rocket. 

The Agni-V missile is expected to become fully operational as early as 2014 after several more tests, The Times of India reported. It has a range of more than 3,100 miles, according to a BBC report.

Named after Hindu god of fire
The LA Times reported that the 50-ton, 55-foot three-stage rocket is named after the Hindu god of fire.  However, it said the missile had been dubbed the "China killer" by the Indian press.  

The launch, which was flagged well in advance, has attracted none of the criticism from the West faced by hermit state North Korea for a failed bid to send up a similar rocket last week.

But China noted the launch with disapproval.

"The West chooses to overlook India's disregard of nuclear and missile control treaties,'' China's Global Times newspaper said in an editorial published before the launch, which was delayed a day due to bad weather at the test site.

RNGS / Reuters

"India should not overestimate its strength,'' said the paper, which is owned by the Chinese Communist Party's main mouthpiece the People's Daily.

Fast emerging as a world economic power, India is keen to play a larger role on the global stage and has long angled for a permanent seat on the Security Council. In recent years it has emerged as the world's top arms importer as it upgrades equipment for a large but outdated military. 

"It is one of the ways of signaling India's arrival on the global stage, that India deserves to be sitting at the high table," Harsh Pant, a defense expert at King's College, London, said, describing the launch as a "confidence boost." 

NATO said on Wednesday it did not consider India a threat. The U.S. State Department said India's non-proliferation record was "solid,'' while urging restraint. 

Reuters contributed to this report.

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