June 3 (UPI) -- China may have tested submarine-launched ballistic missiles in its northeastern waters around the time Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe was attending the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, according to multiple reports.
Hong Kong's Ming Pao Daily reported the launches took place on Sunday, in Bohai Bay, near China's Shandong Province. Before the launches took place, China's People's Liberation Army restricted public access to the waters, starting 2:30 a.m. Sunday.
The area was suddenly restricted and the public was notified only three minutes ahead of the closure, or at 2:27 a.m., according to Ming Pao.
Eyewitnesses in the provinces of Liaoning, Shandong and Shanxi said at about 4 a.m. they saw long missile tail fins but were not provided any explanations by Chinese authorities.
Defence Blog reported the new Chinese submarine-launched ballistic missiles tested from Bohai Bay could be the JL-3, a third-generation, solid-fueled missile, which could equip China's next-generation nuclear missile submarines.
The SLBMs have an intercontinental range, and can travel 7,500 to 8,700 miles. The missiles can carry up to 10 independent warheads, according to Defence Blog.
China's next-generation nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, the Type 096, is expected to enter service in the late 2020s.
In Singapore, Wei criticized the United States and claimed Washington was trying to "destabilize" the Pacific.
A sensitive issue between the two countries is Taiwan.
China does not recognize Taiwan's sovereignty under its One-China policy, and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has asserted the nation's status as a liberal democracy, a move that has generated friction between the two sides.
The United States has sold weapons to Taiwan. On Saturday at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Lt. Gen. Shao Yuanming, deputy chief of Beijing's Joint Staff Department, said the United States was using Taiwan to promote "instability."
"The United States is pursuing a strong partnership with Taiwan and will faithfully implement the Taiwan Relations Act, as part of a broader commitment to the security and stability of the Indo-Pacific," the Pentagon said in its recent report.