China is nearing the completion stage of its new anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) programme, which is capable of sinking aircraft carriers, US naval official Admiral Robert F Willard has said.

“The new anti-ship ballistic missile is now in the early stages of deployment after having undergone extensive testing,” he added.

The new weapon, known as the “D” version of China’s DF-21 medium-range missile, will be fired into space before returning into the atmosphere to manoeuvre to its target.

China has not conducted a live-fire test attack of the entire system on an actual ship, however, the component parts of the missile have been tested, according to the Economic Times.

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The deployment of the missile will force the US aircraft carrier strike groups to operate farther from hot spots in the western Pacific, according to military specialists.