Reports over the weekend revealed China tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile. The move shocked US intelligence, as they didn’t expect China to have a weapon like that ready for testing.
China launched its hypersonic missile in August; it circled across the globe before accelerating towards its target. However, it missed its target by almost 40 kilometers. Upon seeing China’s progress on hypersonic weaponry, a US official said they have no idea how China achieved this.
China claimed the test was not military-related. Instead, it was focused on civilian space exploration. Besides, foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian revealed China’s test would be instrumental in reducing the cost of spacecraft use.
What the Test Means for the US
Firstly, without a doubt, China is lying by claiming the test was not military-related. An expert on Chinese nuclear weapons and professor at MIT, Taylor Fravel, said it would be upsetting if China manages to develop and deploy a weapon like that fully.
Fravel said hypersonic glide vehicles could fly at lower trajectories; they can also maneuver when in flight. He added these features make it hard to track and destroy them.
Moreover, in past months, US military officials have warned about China’s improving nuclear abilities. This was after a satellite image revealed China was building more than 100 intercontinental missile silos.
China's reported hypersonic missile test "an important surprise" for U.S. https://t.co/fUQFoL84F3
— CBS News (@CBSNews) October 19, 2021
In addition, two sources with excellent knowledge about China’s hypersonic weapons test said it is possible for the weapon to fly through the South Pole, instead of the well-supervised North Pole route.
Lest we forget, the head of Indo-Pacific Command, Admiral Philip Davidson, in March warned about the accelerating imbalance in the region, due to China’s increasing military advance.
He said military inequality in the region is becoming hostile to the US and its allies. Admiral Davidson further explained the imbalance could encourage China to change the status quo before US forces could mount a befitting response.
Another worry for the United States is China is not tied to any arms-control agreement. Aside from that, the country has not had proper discussions with the US.
Response From the White House
White House press secretary Jen Psaki failed to comment on what it meant for the US when China tests a nuclear-capable hypersonic weapon. She, however, noted the US welcomes “stiff competition.” She further said the Biden administration does not want competition to lead to a conflict.
Press Secretary Psaki responds to reports that China tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile:
"We welcome the competition."pic.twitter.com/8uNY9B4SNc
— Alex Salvi (@alexsalvinews) October 18, 2021
Psaki also said she echoes General Austin’s thoughts on the issue. General Austin previously said America is watching China’s advancement in weapons systems closely. He also declared China’s weapons development would only lead to more tensions in the region.
The Biden administration has been wary about China’s adversarial actions. Moreover, CIA Director William Burns previously warned Beijing poses the most significant geopolitical threat to America in the 21st century.
Besides, the CIA launched the China Mission Center (CMC) formation earlier in the month to counter China. William Burns announced CMC would help unify the great work the CIA is already executing against China.