China's new DF-26 anti-ship ballistic missile, unveiled in September, has the capability to arm a nuclear warhead against an aircraft carrier, according to findings by researcher Andrew Erickson in the Chinese-language China Youth Daily newspaper.
Unlike its predecessor, the shorter-range DF-21D, the new missile allows for nuclear warheads to be mounted on it, which lets China use its limited nuclear potential against both strategic and tactical targets. The missile aims to change the power balance in the South China Sea, according to the newspaper.
"That 'change the warhead, not the missile' feature provides a rapid switch between nuclear and conventional," the Chinese article said.
"But the DF-26 does not rely on a site for mobile launching. It can move fast, and it has no strict demands for where it is launched. So that is helpful to movement of missile forces all over and in concealment, and it is helpful to the rapid deployment, rapid launch, and rapid displacement of combat elements. "
According to the newspaper, the new missile aims to be preventative in the conflict China is involved in, regarding disputed islands in the South China Sea.