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US rising concern over China’s hypersonic missile test

hypersonic missile

The United States is “very concerned” about China’s hypersonic missile test, US disarmament ambassador Robert Wood said on Monday after reports came out that Beijing launched a hypersonic missile with a nuclear capacity in August.  

“We are very concerned by what China has been doing on the hypersonic front,” Robert Wood told reporters in Geneva.

The initial reports in the Financial Times newspaper reported that China has launched a nuclear capable missile in August that becomes successful in travelling the earth at low orbit before missing out on its target. Further, a long March rocket  was used to launch a hypersonic missile. Financial Times claimed that the Beijing test of the missile circling the earth had been kept under wraps. 

“We just don’t know how we can defend against that type of technology. Neither does China or Russia,” Wood told reporters.

“This was not a missile, this was a spacecraft,” Zhao Lijian, the foreign ministry spokesperson  said on Monday. “This is of great significance for reducing the cost of spacecraft and providing a convenient and cheap way for humans to use space for peaceful purposes.” 

Hypersonic missiles have the capability to fly more than five times the speed of sound. They are being constructed in such a way that they only need a few trajectory in the atmosphere and further make them harder to defend against. 

The reported launch of a hypersonic missile perplexed the minds of observers in Washington One US official informed the FT: “We have no idea how they did this.” The FT report said Beijing’s progress in the field had “caught US intelligence by surprise”.

“The timing isn’t surprising at all,” said Tong Zhao, a senior fellow of the nuclear policy programme based at the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing. “China is known to have been conducting research on new delivery technologies for some time. But even if this reported launch was a weapons test, it may be far from becoming an operational capability.

“If the FT report was true, it means that China is willing to go the extra mile with a exotic approach to penetrate the US’s missile defence,” he said, adding that the US had “long possessed a very similar and more sophisticated technology, such as the X-37B spacecraft”.

Besides China, the US, Russia and at least five other countries are testing a new hypersonic missile. The hypersonic missile is designed to deliver a nuclear warhead and has the potential to hit the target more speedily as compared to the other ballistic missiles. 

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