Pakistan Successfully Tests Long-Range Nuclear-Capable Missile

Pakistan successfully test-fired a new version of its long-range nuclear-capable missile on Friday, the military said.

The Shaheen II ballistic missile, launched from an undisclosed location, has a range of 1,245 miles.

"The missile test was part of a continuous process of validation and technical improvement which Pakistan follows to consolidate and verify its various land-based strategic missile systems," the military said.

The Shaheen II is Pakistan's longest-range ballistic missile system, and has the capability to hit major cities in neighboring India.

The missile "can carry nuclear and conventional warheads with high accuracy," the military said in a statement. An earlier version of the missile was tested in April 2006, and officials said they could not release details of how it had been upgraded.

Nuclear-armed rivals Pakistan and India have a history of bitter relations, and have fought three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947.

The two sides often test-fire missiles. Pakistan's test came days after bomb blasts sparked a fire on a train in India that was headed for Pakistan, killing 68 people, mostly Pakistanis.

Although Pakistan and India have been careful to avoid saying whom they suspect, Indian officials have hinted that they suspect Pakistan-based Islamic militants, a claim dismissed as "absurd" by Pakistan.

On Wednesday, Pakistani and Indian officials signed an agreement in New Delhi to reduce the risk of an accidental nuclear war between them.

Pakistan became a declared nuclear power in 1998 in response to nuclear tests by India.

Pakistan also tested its first missile in 1998, while New Delhi tested its first atomic bomb in 1974.

After witnessing the missile test on Friday, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, Gen. Ehsan Ul Haq, congratulated the scientists and engineers for "achieving an important milestone in Pakistan's quest for sustaining strategic balance in South Asia," the military statement said.

It also quoted Haq as saying that "Pakistan's strategy of credible minimum deterrence was fully in place and was a guarantee of peace in the region."

In separate messages, Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz also congratulated the scientists and engineers for upgrading the missile.