Top US General Says China’s Hypersonic Weapon Test “Very Worrying”

(CNN) — The top US general said China’s test of a hypersonic weapon over the summer was “very disturbing” and “has our full attention.”

The head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, speaking to Bloomberg Television, did not go so far as to call the test a “Sputnik moment”, but acknowledged that it “is very close to that.” He called the weapon test “a very significant technological development” that is just one element of China’s military capabilities.

It was the first official recognition of the test by the Pentagon, which has so far declined to comment.

“Chinese military capabilities are far greater than that” single test, Milley said. “They are rapidly expanding into space, into cyberspace, and then into the traditional domains of land, sea, and air.”

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“China is very significant on our horizon,” Milley added.

Earlier this month, the Financial Times reported on a Chinese test of a hypersonic glide vehicle launched from a rocket in low Earth orbit that, in theory, could be able to evade US missile defense systems. The speed with which the Chinese developed the system surprised US national security officials.

China’s response

When asked about the Financial Times report, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the August test was “a spacecraft, not a missile.”

“This test was a routine space experiment to verify reusable spacecraft technology, which is of great importance in reducing the cost of using spacecraft. It can provide a convenient and inexpensive way for humans to use space effectively. peaceful. Many companies around the world have carried out similar experiments, “Zhao said.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has repeatedly stressed that China is the Pentagon’s challenge in its race to modernize its military. And last week, CIA Director Bill Burns said that China is the biggest technological threat to the United States.

“I think in terms of broad capacity, across the range of emerging technologies, China probably is today,” Burns said in a speech at Stanford University.

On Wednesday, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby declined to comment further on the test.

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“I don’t think it’s good for us to characterize this and put a label on it, this advancement of capabilities,” Kirby said during a briefing at the Pentagon.

The official said the department has been “clear” about its concerns regarding China’s progress in “certain capabilities.”

“We have been very clear about our concern about China’s advances in certain capabilities, a wide range of capabilities, which the secretary himself noted do very little to help ease tensions in the region and beyond. They are paired with a foreign and defense policy approach that uses intimidation and coercion from neighboring nations to yield to China’s interests, “Kirby said.

He also said the hypersonic missile test is part of a “set of concerns” related to China in the Indo-Pacific region.

“There are a number of issues regarding China from a security perspective that deeply concern us about the trajectory of things in the Indo-Pacific,” Kirby said. “Taken together, all of those things are cause for concern and are being used to inform the operational concepts that we want to be able to employ.”