China on Monday said it has tested a hypersonic “vehicle” and not a nuclear-capable hypersonic “missile” as reported by a leading British newspaper which had claimed that the advanced space capability caught US intelligence by surprise.
The Financial Times reported on Sunday that China tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile in August that circled the globe before speeding towards its target, demonstrating an advanced space capability that caught US intelligence by surprise.
Five people familiar with the test said that the Chinese military launched a rocket that carried a hypersonic glide vehicle which flew through low-orbit space before cruising down towards its target, the FT report said.
The missile missed its target by about two-dozen miles, according to three people briefed on the intelligence. But two said the test showed that China had made astounding progress on hypersonic weapons and was far more advanced than US officials realised, according to the report.
Asked for his reaction to the report, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a media briefing here that a test of a hypersonic vehicle was carried out.
“It is a vehicle not a missile,” Zhao said.
“As we understand this test, it is just a routine space vehicle test to verify the repeated use of technology of the vehicle.
“This is of great significance to reducing the cost and can also provide an affordable and cheap return means for the peaceful use of space for humanity,” he said.