China denies it tested missile, says it was space vehicle
The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Monday denied reports that it tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile this summer and said it was in fact a reusable space vehicle.
“It was not a missile, it was a space vehicle,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a press conference, according to Reuters.
Lijian added that the flight was a “routine” test of the ability to reuse the vehicle and noted that should it be successful, it could offer a relatively cheap and easy way for people to go to space.
“Many companies in the world have carried out similar experiments,” Zhao said, according to CNN. “China will work together with other countries in the world to benefit mankind in the peaceful use of space.”
On Saturday, the Financial Times had reported that China’s hypersonic missile “caught U.S. intelligence by surprise” after it flew through space and circled the globe before descending toward its target, which it missed by about two dozen miles. The newspaper also reported that the test was in August, but the Chinese Foreign Ministry said it took place in July, Reuters added.
Last month, North Korea said it successfully tested a hypersonic missile, while Russia reported earlier this month that it launched a hypersonic missile from the Severodvinsk submarine for the first time.
Hypersonic missiles can travel five times faster than the speed of sound, or Mach 5, allowing them to reach targets before being detected and shot down.
Responding to the initial Financial Times report, Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) said the test should “serve as a call to action,” according to CNN.
Gallagher, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the U.S. could “lose the new Cold War with Communist China within the decade” if President Biden doesn’t change course.