China recently carried out a “very concerning” test of a hypersonic weapons system as part of its aggressive advance in space and military technologies, the top US military officer confirmed.
General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was the first Pentagon official this year to confirm the nature of a test by the Chinese military that has been reported as a nuclear capable hypersonic weapon that has launched into space and orbit the Earth before re-entering the atmosphere and hovering towards its target in China.
Milley said he could not discuss the details as some aspects involved classified information. He said the United States is also working on hypersonic weapons, the main characteristics of which include the flight path, speed and maneuverability that make them capable of evading the early warning systems that are part of American missile defenses. .
The United States has not conducted a hypersonic weapon test of the type that Milley said China has done.
“What we saw was a very important event in a test of a hypersonic weapon system, and it is of great concern,” Milley told Bloomberg Television.
“I think I saw in some newspapers 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 to that. So it’s a very important technological event that happened, or a test that happened, by the Chinese. And he has our full attention.
The launch of a Sputnik satellite by the Soviet Union in 1957 stunned the world and fueled fears that the United States was falling behind technology in an accelerated arms race at the start of the nuclear age.
China has challenged Western reports of its test, saying it is working on reusable space vehicle technology for peaceful purposes.
Asked about Milley’s comments, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said he was expressing concerns about China’s military modernization.
“They continue to look for capabilities that increase tensions in the region,” she said. “And we continue to have concerns about this. And I think that was reflected in his comments.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby declined to comment on Milley’s test or remarks beyond saying China’s work on advanced hypersonic weapons is part of a “chain of problems” that that the Biden administration is concerned about “the trajectory of where things are going in the Indo-Pacific.”
Asked about the advancement of US hypersonic weapon technology, Kirby said that “it’s real, it’s tangible, and we’re absolutely working to be able to develop that capability.” He declined to provide details.
Some U.S. defense experts say concerns about China’s work on a hypersonic weapon that could launch a nuclear weapon from space are overblown.
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, it’s not a Sputnik moment – partly because it’s not entirely clear what has been tested, but mostly because the threat of a Chinese nuclear attack on the United States is not new. “Acton wrote.
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 it has rejected calls for the United States to join control talks. nuclear weapons. The United States has also raised concerns over what it calls Chinese efforts to intimidate Taiwan, the autonomous island that China claims to be part of its territory, and to claim disputed islands and others. land features of the South China Sea.