China trashes FT report, says it tested spacecraft, not ‘hypersonic missile’

London-based Financial Times reported on Saturday that China had tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile. China on Monday denied the report, saying it had tested a ‘space vehicle’
Military vehicles carrying hypersonic missiles DF-17 go past Tiananmen Square during a military parade in Beijing, China on October 1, 2019. (REUTERS/File)
Military vehicles carrying hypersonic missiles DF-17 go past Tiananmen Square during a military parade in Beijing, China on October 1, 2019. (REUTERS/File)
Published on Oct 19, 2021 12:06 AM IST
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BySutirtho Patranobis

China on Monday said it had tested a spacecraft and not a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile as reported by the Financial Times, which said the testing of the advanced projectile had caught the US intelligence community by surprise.

The London-based FT, quoting five people familiar with the matter, reported on Saturday that China had tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile that flew through space, circled the globe before cruising down towards its target, which it missed by about two dozen miles.

The report said the feat had “caught US intelligence by surprise”.

Asked to share details about the testing, the Chinese foreign ministry on Monday denied it.

“It was not a missile, it was a space vehicle,” spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at the regular ministry briefing.

“It’s understood that this was a routine test of a space vehicle to verify the technology of the spacecraft’s reusability,” Zhao said.

He added that the test was essential to reduce the cost of spacecraft use, providing a convenient and inexpensive way for humans to use space for peaceful purposes.

Many firms in the world have conducted similar experiments and the separating part of the spacecraft was its accessory part, and it would burn and break up in the atmosphere and the debris would fall into international waters, Zhao said.

“China will work with other countries for the peaceful use of space for the benefit of mankind,” Zhao noted.

The tabloid Global Times while questioning the veracity of the FT report said China was narrowing the military capability with the US.

“It is meaningless to discuss the credibility of the FT report. But it is important to note the unstoppable trend that China is narrowing the gap with the US in some key military technologies as China is continuously developing its economic and technological strength,” the tabloid said in an opinion piece. “China doesn’t need to engage in an ‘arms race’ with the US - it is capable of weakening the US’s overall advantages over China by developing military power at its own pace,” it added.

The US and Russia have tested hypersonic weapons in recent months, and North Korea said in September it had tested a newly developed hypersonic missile.

Hypersonic missiles can fly at more than five times the speed of sound and like ballistic missiles can deliver a nuclear warhead.

Meanwhile, US defence secretary Lloyd Austin said on Monday that Washington was closely watching China’s development of advanced weapons systems but declined to comment on the FT report.

Austin was speaking at a news conference during a visit to Georgia, a Reuters report from Tbilisi said.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2021