WASHINGTON – China recently conducted a “very worrying” test of a hypersonic weapon system as part of its aggressive advancement in space and military technologies, the US chief military officer says.
General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was the first Pentagon official to confirm the nature of a test by the Chinese military that year The Financial Times reported was a hypersonic nuclear weapon that was launched into space and orbited the earth before re-entering the atmosphere and sliding towards its target in China.
Milley said he couldn’t discuss the details as the issues were secret intelligence. He said the United States is also working on hypersonic weapons, the main characteristics of which include trajectory, speed, and maneuverability that allow it to evade early warning systems that are part of US missile defense. The US did not do a hypersonic weapon test, as Milley said China did.
“What we saw was a very significant event in a hypersonic weapon system test and it is very worrying,” Milley said in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Wednesday.
“I think I saw in some newspapers that they used the term Sputnik moment,” he added. “I don’t know if it’s a Sputnik moment, but I think it’s very close. So it is a very significant technological event or test that has taken place by the Chinese. And it has our full attention. “
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The 1957 launch of a Sputnik satellite by the Soviet Union stunned the world and fueled US fears that it would be technologically behind in an accelerating arms race in the early stages of the nuclear age.
China has denied Western news reports about its test, saying it was working on technology for a reusable spacecraft for peaceful purposes.
When asked about Milley’s remarks, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said he expressed concerns about China’s military modernization.
“They continue to pursue skills that increase tension in the region,” she said. “And we still have concerns. And I think that was reflected in his comments.”
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby declined to comment on the test or Milley’s remarks, except that China’s work on advanced hypersonic weapons is one of a “series of problems” that lead to the Biden administration is concerned about “the development of the things things go into”. the Indo-Pacific. “
When asked about the advances in US hypersonic weapons technologies, Kirby said they are “real, they are tangible, and we are absolutely working to develop that capability.” He declined to give details.
On Thursday, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General John Hyten confirmed the missile was hypersonic and called it a “major event.” He said China had tested “hundreds” of the missiles while the US only tested a few – in the “single digits”.
Hyten warned at a media and national security project event at George Washington University in Washington that the US must change the way it tests systems like hypersonic.
China tests and fails and tests and fails, he said, learning more and making progress every time it failed. The US rarely tests until it is very confident that the test will work, he said. China is not afraid of failure and allows them to develop systems faster.
He also said the US must invest in systems that protect against hypersonic, such as directional energy and lasers.
Some U.S. defense experts say concerns about China’s work on a hypersonic weapon that could deliver a nuclear weapon from space are exaggerated.
James Acton of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace wrote in an essay last week that the United States has long been vulnerable to a Chinese nuclear attack.
“While the prospect of a nuclear attack on the United States is terrifying, this is not a Sputnik moment – partly because it is not entirely clear what was being tested, but mainly because of the threat of a Chinese nuclear attack on the United States States is not remotely new, “wrote Acton.
In addition to its advances in hypersonic weapons, China has expanded its network of underground silos that could be used to launch nuclear missiles with intercontinental range and has rejected US requests to participate in talks on nuclear arms control. The US has also raised concerns about so-called Chinese efforts to intimidate Taiwan, the self-governing island that China claims as part of its territory, and to claim controversial islands and other land features in the South China Sea.