China has reportedly tested a new version of a missile capable of carrying a payload of 10 individual warheads, indicating a shift in China's nuclear policy or an attempt to put pressure on the Trump administration.

The flight test of the Dongfeng-5C missile was carried out in January using multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles, or MIRVs, reported the Washington Free Beacon website, citing US defence sources.

The missile, carrying 10 dummy warheads, was launched from the Taiyuan Space Launch Centre in Shanxi province, and flew to a desert in western China, the report said.

Pentagon spokesman Commander Gary Ross said in a statement the test was monitored.

"The (Defence Department) routinely monitors Chinese military developments and accounts for PLA capabilities in our defence plans," Ross was quoted as saying by the website.

Earlier versions of the DF-5 have either a single warhead or from six to eight MIRVs, according to estimates, reported RT news.

According to the report, the development may indicate a shift in China's nuclear deterrence policy to modify older rockets with new MIRV busses, which could mean China intends to increase the number of warheads it possesses. 

It is currently estimated to have about 250. 

China also began adding warheads to older DF-5 missiles in February last year, the report said, citing US intelligence agencies.

US defence officials have previously warned that China's rapid development of long-range ballistic missiles, coupled with a lack of transparency about its nuclear capabilities, could bring uncertainty to stability in the region.

The test comes amid a period of heightened tensions between China and the US in the wake of the election of Donald Trump as America's 45th President. 

Trump has threatened to oppose China on a number of fronts, from its military build-up in the South China Sea to its monetary policy. 

He has even cast doubt on Washington's long-standing commitment to the "one China policy", which regards Taiwan as one with mainland China governed by Beijing.