China has denied reports of testing a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile earlier this year, arguing that it would instead conduct regular inspections of the spacecraft.
An early report in the Financial Times is known to have raised concern in Washington and alarmed US intelligence agencies.
High-speed hypersonic missiles are much faster and more difficult to intercept with agility than regular missiles.
This raises concerns about China’s nuclear capabilities.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in a press briefing on Monday that regular tests to validate the technology of various types of reusable spacecraft were conducted in July.
Zhao adds that many countries have conducted similar tests in the past. When asked if the FT’s coverage was accurate, he answered “yes”.
Saturday’s report cited five unnamed sources that the hypersonic missile was launched in the summer. According to reports, the spacecraft finally missed its target while in low Earth orbit.
“Testing results show that China has made remarkable progress beyond what U.S. control could have imagined in the field of hypersonic weapons,” the report said.
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Disarmament ambassador Robert Wood added on Monday that Washington was “seeking military applications of this technology” and the United States was “deeply concerned”.
But he said China and Russia are seeking “aggressive” military use, which means the United States must “retaliate.”
“How can we protect that technology? China could be Russia,” he told reporters in Geneva.
Former Republican House Armed Services Committee member Mike Gallagher has warned that if the United States sticks to its current approach, it will be defeated in a new cold war with China within a decade.
China condemns President Joe Biden’s hostility, and US-China relations are fueling hostility.
A number of Western countries have also expressed concern about China’s recent military prowess.
Media caption, how strong is the Chinese military?
Michael Shubridge, head of defense, strategy and national security at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said hypersonic missiles were “suitable for an extended pattern of nuclear and other strike weapons” when tested in paddy fields.
“I don’t think it’s more important than China’s growing missile silos or air-dropped nuclear weapons or new submarine nuclear weapons,” he said.
“Transparency is a concept unknown to strategic thinkers in Beijing,” he added.
At a recent military exhibition, China demonstrated what a hypersonic missile platform might look like.
In addition to China, hypersonic missile technology is being studied in the United States, Russia and at least five other countries.
It can fly at a speed of more than five times the speed of sound and can fire not only ballistic missiles but also nuclear warheads.
Last month, North Korea announced that it had successfully tested a hypersonic missile. In July, Russia said a frigate in the White Sea had made a similar announcement.