China denies report claiming it launched hypersonic missile

China denied that it had launched a hypersonic rocket, stating that the launch of a new spacecraft was only a test to determine if the vehicle can be reused.
According to the Financial Times, a Chinese nuclear-capable missile was launched in August. It circled Earth at low orbit and narrowly missed its target. Multiple sources claim that the hypersonic missile, which was claimed by the Financial Times (FT), was carried aboard a Long March rocket. The test was kept secret.

Beijing claimed Monday that the report was incorrect and that the exercise was a test for reusable technology, which could lower the cost of spacecraft launches.

According to my understanding, the test is a routine spacecraft testing, which was used to test a spacecraft technology. Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for China's foreign ministry, told reporters during a regular press conference that this test was a routine spacecraft testing. This could be a cost-effective and convenient way for humans to use the space environment for peaceful purposes.

Zhao's comments were made days after China sent a third crew of three people to its space station for a six-month mission. The FT report was published at a delicate time as China's relationship with the US is continuing to deteriorate. Some commentators said recent developments reminded them of the cold war between the Soviet Union in the 20th Century and the West in the 21st.

Some Washington observers were puzzled by the report of a launch of a hypersonic weapon. According to one US official, the FT reported that Beijing's advancement in the field caught the US intelligence off guard.

Tong Zhao, a senior fellow at the CarnegieTsinghua Center for Global Policy, Beijing, stated that the timing of this launch is not surprising. China has been researching new delivery technologies for some time. Even if the launch was a weapon test, it could still be a way to develop operational capabilities.

If the FT report is true, it would mean that China is prepared to take a more innovative approach to penetrate the US missile defense, he stated. He also said that the US has long had a similar and more advanced technology such as the X-37B satellite.

Drew Thompson, an ex-director for China, Taiwan, and Mongolia at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, stated that the Department of Defense as well as the intelligence community have been closely following and tracking China's missile programs for many years.

He said that it was difficult to deflect credible claims without transparency regarding China's space program. Biden's calculations [regarding China] have changed since a while back, I believe. These facts only reinforce the conclusion.

Hypersonic technology is being developed by the US, Russia, and at least five other countries, including China.

Hypersonic missiles fly at five times the speed sound, and can also deliver a nuclear warhead like ballistic missiles. Ballistic missiles are designed to fly in an arc into space to reach their target, while hypersonic missiles fly in the atmosphere on a low trajectory and may be able to reach their target faster.

A hypersonic missile's maneuverability makes it difficult to track or defend against.

While countries, including the US, have developed systems to protect against ballistic and cruise missiles, their ability to track down and destroy hypersonic missiles remains a question.

According to a report from the US Congressional Research Service, China has been developing this technology aggressively.

Contributions from AFP, the Associated Press

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