The Chinese People's Liberation Army Daily on Friday carried a photo on its front page of the Changcheng 200 submarine test-firing a missile.
The disclosure of the exercise follows the dramatic test flight earlier this month of a new stealth fighter jet that coincided with the visit of U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
The news was also reported by the official Xinhua news agency, the web edition of the People's Daily, and the Science and Technology Daily the following day. They did not specify when and where the test took place.
The Changcheng 200, commissioned in 1966, is a large G-class conventional submarine, 98 m long and 8.6 m wide. It is powered by diesel engines and electric motors. The sub first test-launched a missile in 1982, but this was the first time a firing exercise has ever been made public.
"The Changcheng 200 smoothly accomplished scores of test-launch missions of ballistic missiles over the past 46 years. It received the title 'vanguard submarine of underwater test launches' from Hu Jintao, the chairman of the Central Military Commission, last August," the daily said.
The sub is under the command of the North Sea Fleet, which supervises the Balhae Sea (Bohai) and the West Sea. The missile is believed to be a Changjian-10 submarine-launched cruise missile also known as an "aircraft carrier killer." This spawned speculation that the drill was staged in preparation for the entry into the West Sea by U.S. aircraft carriers.
Earlier on Jan. 26, official Chinese media revealed the test-launch of a nuclear missile by the Second Artillery Force, the Chinese Army's strategic nuclear missile unit.
Diplomats in Beijing speculated that China aims to show off the modernization of its military at home and abroad and enhance military transparency as demanded by the U.S. and the West.
A military expert in Beijing said the official Chinese media outlets on Jan. 26 gave massive coverage of the test-launch of a nuclear missile by the Second Artillery Force even though it failed. "It appears that the military is unveiling these weapons to emphasize their defense readiness," the expert speculated.