Pakistan Tests Long-Range Missile

Pakistan on Saturday successfully test-fired its longest-range missile, a military spokesman said, capable of carrying nuclear warheads and hitting many targets deep inside neighboring India.

The test of the Shaheen II (search) missile, which has a range of 1,250 miles, was not, however, expected to hurt peace efforts between the nuclear rivals. Both countries routinely conduct missile tests and inform each other in advance.

The military did not disclose where the test was conducted, but said it was witnessed by President Gen. Pervez Musharraf (search).

There was no immediate reaction from New Delhi.

Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan (search), spokesman for the Pakistan army, said the missile successfully hit its target.

"This missile which incorporates an advanced two-stage solid motor technology, can carry all types of conventional and nuclear warheads," a military statement said.

The test came two days after the U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Pakistan to encourage the peace process — and ahead of Pakistan's National Day on March 23, to be marked with a major military parade in the capital, Islamabad.

Pakistan and India have a history of bitter relations. They have fought three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947.

Early last year, they began peace talks aimed at resolving their disputes, including their competing claims to the divided Himalyan region of Kashmir. The dialogue has helped ease tensions significantly between the two nations that nearly fought a fourth war in 2002.

In a statement, Musharraf said Pakistan's nuclear capability would continue to "receive the highest national priority."

He reiterated its policy of "consolidating and strengthening its minimum deterrence needs as well as strict adherence to nonproliferation."

Pakistan became a declared nuclear power on May 28, 1998, when it conducted underground nuclear tests in response to those carried out by India. It tested its first missile the same year.

Pakistan has weathered a diplomatic storm over the dealings of its top nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan (search) who was exposed last year as the key player in an international black market in nuclear weapons technology that supplied Iran, North Korea and Libya.

Khan now lives under virtual house arrest in Islamabad.