China has tested a nuclear-capable missile that has circled the globe, FT sources said. According to the newspaper, the launch showed that the country has made striking progress in the field of hypersonic weapons, which the U.S. did not expect from it
China tested a nuclear-capable rocket that flew around the world in August, showing its space capabilities that took U.S. intelligence "by surprise", the FT reported. The Financial Times cites sources as saying so.
The Chinese military launched a missile that carried a hypersonic planning unit that flew in low-Earth orbit and descended toward the target, five sources familiar with the test told the newspaper. According to two of its sources familiar with the intelligence, the tests showed that China had made striking progress in hypersonic weapons and was far more advanced in this regard than U.S. officials thought. "We have no idea how they did it," one of the interlocutors said.
The Chinese weapons could theoretically fly over the South Pole, two sources familiar with the tests told the FT. This could pose a serious challenge to the U.S. military, as its defense systems are focused on the "north polar direction," the newspaper said.
The Pentagon did not comment on the FT story, but its spokesman, John Kirby, said, "We have outlined our concerns about the military capabilities that China continues to pursue. A capability that only exacerbates tensions in the region and beyond." The Chinese embassy in the U.S. declined to comment to the newspaper about the tests. Its spokesman, Liu Pengyu, said China has always pursued an "inherently defensive" military policy and the development of its capabilities is not aimed against any country.
China, the U.S. and Russia are both developing hypersonic weapons, the FT notes. This includes gliding blocks launched into space with the help of a rocket. They move at five times the speed of sound - slower than ballistic missiles. However, they do not follow a fixed trajectory and can maneuver, which makes them more difficult to track.