Financial Times report raises eyebrows . . .
On Saturday, the Financial Times reported that China tested a hypersonic missile with nuclear capabilities in August. Hypersonic missiles can fly at very low altitudes and at very high speeds – up to five times the speed of sound (approximately 6,200 km/h). Unlike ballistic missiles, hypersonic missiles do not follow a fixed trajectory but instead can be manoeuvred in flight. This means they are much more difficult to detect, track, and defend against. The missile China tested reportedly circled the globe through low orbit space before ultimately missing its target by approximately 38 kilometres.
Beijing denies report . . .
On Monday, China’s foreign ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, denied the Financial Times report. He stated that “it was not a missile, it was a space vehicle” and that it was a “routine test” for reusable technology that could decrease the cost of launching spacecraft. He added that the test was of “great significance” and could provide a “convenient and affordable way” for people to access space. Finally, Zhao said that many countries had undertaken similar tests in the past and that “China will work together with other countries in the world to benefit mankind in the peaceful use of space.”
Growing concerns over China’s capabilities . . .
These reports about China’s alleged missile test come as many countries have expressed worries regarding China’s nuclear weapons capabilities. According to the Financial Times, China’s missile test took the U.S. government by surprise, and showed that its capabilities were “far more advanced than U.S. officials realized.” Despite Beijing’s denials, the U.S. has noted that it is still very concerned about the potential of China testing hypersonic missiles. On Monday, the Secretary-General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, also confirmed that countering the rise of China would be a future priority for the alliance. This new focus was said to be due in part to China’s long-range missiles.