China successfully tested its land-based anti-missile system on Wednesday, its third successful test since 2010, but observers said the system still needs to be improved.
China conducted tests on its missile-interception system on Wednesday and "achieved the preset goal", according to the Ministry of National Defence on its website shortly after the trial.
Military authorities provided no further information, including at which stage the missiles were intercepted. After a missile is launched, interception normally takes place at one of the three key stages of trajectory: boost, mid-course or terminal phase.
China successfully completed two mid-course, land-based missile interception tests in 2010 and 2013, both of which "attained preset objectives".
Analysts, as quoted by Xinhua News Agency, said the strategic importance of the capability of intercepting mid-course, land-based missiles is on par with being equipped with nuclear weapons and satellites.
Only a few countries, including the United States, have successfully conducted such tests in the past decade.
Li Qinggong, deputy secretary-general of the China Council for National Security Policy Studies, said no matter the level of interception that took place, China has probably made a major breakthrough in key technologies such as precision guidance.
Teng Jianqun, a senior research fellow from the China Institute of International Studies, said the interception of incoming warheads, reconnaissance and early warning technologies may have also been improved.
"The progress in recent years is in line with Chinese air forces' efforts to build offensive and defensive capabilities", which were highlighted by the annual national defence white paper, said Teng.
But Li warned that the anti-missile system still has to be upgraded to full operational capability.
"It does not form a seamless shield protecting the whole country from a swarm of incoming warheads," he said. "China still lags far behind some countries, including the US, in this regard."
The latest test came one month after the US military used an interceptor missile to destroy a mock warhead over the Pacific Ocean, the first time in six years that the Ground-Based Midcourse Defence system destroyed a test target.
Both Li and Teng denied any connections between the two tests, stressing China is developing the anti-missile capability based on its own long-term plans and only conducts test when it is technologically ready.
"All anti-missile systems have a deterrent effect, but I don't think China wants or has to show it now. Actually it is avoiding giving the world an impression of its deterrent capabilities," said Li.
Chinese military officials described the test in 2013 as "defensive" that does "not target any country".