China reportedly tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile in August in a bid to demonstrate its advanced space capability that took US intelligence by surprise, according to a Financial Timesreport. And on Sunday, China took a jibe at the United States saying that the secret test is a "new blow to the US's mentality of strategic superiority over China."
A Financial Times report says that a Long March rocket was launched in Beijing in August when it circled the globe at low orbit before descending toward its target, and missing it by over 20 miles. According to sources, the test was kept a secret, which was the reason it took the United States by surprise.
Not Really a Surprise
The Financial Times report said that five people familiar with the test said the "Chinese military launched a rocket that carried a hypersonic glide vehicle which flew through low-orbit space before cruising down towards its target." The test was done in a bid to prove that China had made astounding progress on hypersonic weapons and is far superior than the United States.
Much like traditional ballistic missiles, hypersonic missiles can deliver nuclear weapons and fly at more than five times the speed of sound. Moreover, hypersonic missiles can be controlled after launch, making it easier to evade defense systems.
The report further states that two people familiar with the Chinese test said the weapon could, in theory, fly over the South Pole. "That would pose a big challenge for the US military because its missile defense systems are focused on the northern polar route," the FT report said.
That said what is more interesting is that China usually announces the launch of its Long March rockets â the type used to launch the hypersonic glide vehicle into orbit â but this time it concealed its entire plan.
China Mocks United States
The developments come against the backdrop of growing US-China rivalry, Chinese pressure on Taiwan, and its year-long standoff with Indian forces in eastern Ladakh. According to sources, the United States was taken by surprise because the entire thing was concealed but that seems to be what China had wanted.
Taking a jibe at the United States, an op-ed in the Chinese state media outlet Global Times, Beijing's mouthpiece said the test is a "new blow to the US's mentality of strategic superiority over China." It further said that the test means "there is a key new member in China's nuclear deterrence system."
This is the latest development in a terrifying arms race taking place in Asia as tensions between China and Taiwan continue to grow. Besides China, the United States, Russia and at least five other countries are working on hypersonic technology, and last month North Korea said it had test-fired a newly-developed hypersonic missile.
Russia is regarded as having the most potent hypersonic missile arsenal. It tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile in July.
The Pentagon did not comment on China's testing of the hypersonic missile, but did acknowledge China as their 'number one pacing challenge'.
"We have made clear our concerns about the military capabilities China continues to pursue, capabilities that only increase tensions in the region and beyond," John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesperson, told Fox News. "That is one reason why we hold China as our number one pacing challenge."