Report from Financial Times said test showed China had made 'astounding progress' on hypersonic weaponsHypersonic missile launched in August, circled the globe at low orbit and missed target by two dozen milesUS intelligence was caught off guard as US is one of eight nations developing their own hypersonic missilesAn op-ed in Chinese state media said the test shows the 'unstoppable trend that China is narrowing the gap with the US in some key military technologies'
Beijing has mocked America by saying their secret test of a 21,000mph nuclear-capable missile, which orbited the globe before returning to Earth to strike its target, is a ‘new blow to the US’s mentality of strategic superiority over China’.
The jibe follows a report from the Financial Times, which cited five unnamed intelligence sources, said the Chinese military launched the Long March rocket in August carrying a ‘hypersonic glide vehicle’ into low orbit.
It circled the globe before descending towards its target, which is missed by about two dozen miles, in a technological development that would overcome US anti-ballistic missile systems.
The incident caught the US intelligence community by surprise, sources say, as it shows ‘China has made astonishing progress on the development of its hypersonic weapons’.
One person familiar with the test said: ‘We have no idea how they did this.’
And to rub salt into their wounds, an op-ed in the Chinese state media outlet Global Times, Beijing’s mouthpiece, said the test means ‘there is a key new member in China’s nuclear deterrence system’, adding that this is a ‘new blow to the US’s mentality of strategic superiority over China’.
The hypersonic missiles can reach speeds of up to 21,000 mph and can strike anywhere on Earth from space within minutes.
The system would be able to overcome US anti-ballistic missile defence systems that are based in Alaska and set up to shoot down projectiles coming over the North Pole – the Chinese system would be able to strike the US from the south.
A report from the Financial Times, which cited five unnamed intelligence sources, said the Chinese military launched the Long March rocket in August carrying a ‘hypersonic glide vehicle’ into low orbit. It circled the globe before descending towards its target, which it missed by about two dozen miles. The system would be able to overcome US anti-ballistic missile defence systems that are based in Alaska and set up to shoot down projectiles coming over the North Pole – the Chinese system would be able to strike the US from the south
Shenzhou-13 spacecraft is launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on October 16
Preparations underway: Pictures from earlier this month show the Long March-2F carrier rocket, carrying the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft, sitting at the launching area at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the country’s northwestern Gansu province
Pictured: China launches the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft on October 16, carried on the Long March-2F carrier rocket, to Chinese Tiangong space station
This is the latest development in a terrifying arms race taking place in Asia as tensions between China and Taiwan continue to grow. China’s ministry of defence did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment on Sunday.
Along with China, the United States, Russia and at least five other countries are working on hypersonic technology, and last month North Korea said it had test-fired a newly-developed hypersonic missile.
At a 2019 parade, China showcased advancing weaponry including its hypersonic missile, known as the DF-17.
Ballistic missiles fly into outer space before returning on steep trajectories at higher speeds. Hypersonic weapons are difficult to defend against because they fly towards targets at lower altitudes but can achieve more than five times the speed of sound – or about 6,200 km per hour (3,850 mph).
The Pentagon did not comment on China’s testing of the hypersonic missile, but did acknowledge China as their ‘number one pacing challenge’.
‘We have made clear our concerns about the military capabilities China continues to pursue, capabilities that only increase tensions in the region and beyond,’ John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesperson, told Fox News. ‘That is one reason why we hold China as our number one pacing challenge.’
An op-ed in Beijing’s state media outlet Global Times said: ‘If the FT report is to be believed, it means that there is a key new member in China’s nuclear deterrence system, which is a new blow to the US’ mentality of strategic superiority over China.
‘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.’
‘China doesn’t need to engage in an ‘arms race’ with the US – it is capable of weakening the US’ overall advantages over China by developing military power at its own pace,’ the editorial added.
It comes as the Chinese military today condemned the United States and Canada for each sending a warship through the Taiwan Strait last week, saying they were threatening peace and stability in the region.
China claims democratically-ruled Taiwan as its own territory, and has mounted repeated air force missions into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ) over the past year, provoking anger in Taipei.
China sent around 150 aircraft into the zone over a four-day period beginning on Oct. 1 in a further heightening of tension between Beijing and Taipei that has sparked concern internationally.
The US military said the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Dewey sailed through the narrow waterway that separates Taiwan from its giant neighbour China along with the Canadian frigate HMCS Winnipeg on Thursday and Friday.
‘Dewey’s and Winnipeg’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the commitment of the United States and our allies and partners to a free and open Indo-Pacific,’ it added.
China’s People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theatre Command said its forces monitored the ships and ‘stood guard’ throughout their passage.
‘The United States and Canada colluded to provoke and stir up trouble… seriously jeopardising peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait,’ it said.
‘Taiwan is part of Chinese territory. Theatre forces always maintain a high level of alert and resolutely counter all threats and provocations.’
The US said the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Dewey sailed through the narrow waterway that separates Taiwan from its giant neighbour China on Thursday and Friday, an act China condemned (Pictured: USS Dewey file photo)
Pictured: The Royal Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Winnipeg which sailed through the Taiwan strait this week with USS Dewey
U.S. Navy ships have been transiting the strait roughly monthly, to the anger of Beijing, which has accused Washington of stoking regional tensions. U.S. allies occasionally also send ships through the strait, including Britain last month.
China strongly condemned Britain for sailing the warship through the sensitive Taiwan Strait, saying it was behaviour that ‘harboured evil intentions’ and that the Chinese military followed the vessel and warned it away.
Earlier this month, Britain’s HMS Queen Elizabeth led a huge naval exercise in the Philippine Sea alongside US and Japanese aircraft carriers.
While tensions across the Taiwan Strait have risen, there has been no shooting and Chinese aircraft have not entered Taiwanese air space, concentrating their activity in the southwestern part of the ADIZ.
Taiwan’s defence ministry said on Sunday that three Chinese aircraft – two J-16 fighters and an anti-submarine aircraft – flew into the ADIZ again
China has dramatically stepped up its military operations around the island – flying 150 aircraft close-by in a huge show of force coinciding with the island’s National Day holiday.
Taiwan has warned that China will be ready for a full-scale invasion of the island by 2025, ramping up tensions further after the UK’s Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier led a huge naval exercise alongside the US and Japan in the region at the weekend
At the same time, Beijing’s mouthpiece media has been warning that it is ‘only a matter of time’ before the island falls into their hands and that World War Three could be triggered ‘at any time’.
Yesterday. Chinese defense ministry spokesman Tan Kefei described Beijing’s military as an ‘high alert’ and ‘ready to fight any time’, according to Communist Party controlled newspaper The Global Times.
The spokesman insisted that Taiwan belongs to China and accused the US of ‘confusing white with black’ – pledging that ‘external interference’ would be beaten back.
Another article warned that Taiwan was facing a ‘doomsday’, according to the Sun, and said the ‘hope of a peaceful resolution to the Taiwan question is declining sharply’.
Earlier this week, satellite images emerged showing how China has upgraded military air bases close to Taiwan, in the latest hint at potential invasion plans.
Three bases in Fujian province along China’s south-eastern coast have been upgraded or reinforced with improved defences that could boost Chinese efforts in the event of aerial conflict with Taiwan.
The Longtian airbase (pictured) has been expanded and adapted for air defence sites. At least five storage bunkers are being constructed and new administrative buildings have popped up
At the Huian base bombproof aircraft shelters and hangers of a different design, including three most likely used for munitions storage, are visible in the satellite image
At the Zhangzhou base, home of the Eastern Theatre Command’s air force, a newly-constructed air defence site is visible as well as several new buildings
The images come after the People’s Liberation Army air force launched 149 sorties into Taiwanese air defence identification zone (ADIZ) from October 1 to 4 – a record number – amid rising tensions between China and Taiwan.
Taken above the Longtian, Huian and Zhangzhou bases, the pictures reveal the construction of storage bunkers and new administrative buildings.
The pictures, taken by Planet Labs and first published by U.S. automotive and military website The Drive, show that construction work at the bases, where most of the infrastructure dates back to the 1980s, began in early 2020 and continued throughout the pandemic.
The Longtian airbase has been expanded and adapted for air defence sites. At least five storage bunkers are being constructed and new administrative buildings have popped up.
The image of the base, taken on October 2, also shows an expanded apron and four hardened aircraft shelters under construction. The shelters are directly connected to the runway for quick dispersal, according to a label on the image.
At the nearby Huian base bombproof aircraft shelters and hangers of a different design, including three most likely used for munitions storage according to Planet Labs, are visible in the satellite image.
While at the Zhangzhou base, home of the Eastern Theatre Command’s air force, a newly-constructed air defence site is visible as well as several new buildings.
Antony Wong Tong, a Macau-based military expert, told the South China Morning Post that the upgrades offer clues about how the bases might be used in a potential future conflict with Taiwan.
‘Longtian looks like it will be used as an alternate aerodrome after massive refurbishment, while the four new hardened aircraft shelters and the existing functional 24 aircraft sunshade shelters in Huian airbase tell us it will be able to house a full-scale aviation brigade,’ he said.
Reports of the improvements follow previously reported upgrades at other Chinese military bases and come amid rising tensions between China and Taiwan.
China claims the self-governing island off its east coast as its territory, and says Taiwan must eventually come under its control and reserves the right to use force if necessary, according to AP.
Last week, Taiwan’s president said the territory will not bow to pressure from Beijing and will defend its democratic way of life.
Taiwan’s national day celebrations at the weekend were a rare show of Taiwanese defence capabilities in the annual parade and underlined Tsai’s promise to resist China’s military threats
Taiwanese honor guards take part in a parade marking National Day in Taipei on Sunday amid heightened tensions with China
‘The more we achieve, the greater the pressure we face from China,’ President Tsai Ing-wen said in a speech marking Taiwan’s National Day on Sunday in the capital of Taipei, adding: ‘Nobody can force Taiwan to take the path China has laid out for us.’
The National Day celebrations were a rare show of Taiwanese defence capabilities in the annual parade and underlined Tsai’s promise to resist China’s military threats.
The president added: ‘We hope for an easing of… relations [with Beijing] and will not act rashly, but there should be absolutely no illusions that the Taiwanese people will bow to pressure.
‘We will continue to bolster our national defence and demonstrate our determination to defend ourselves in order to ensure that nobody can force Taiwan to take the path China has laid out for us.’
Chinese President Xi Jinping broke off official communication with Taipei following Tsai’s election five years ago, and has since ramped up economic, diplomatic and military pressure.
The latest flare-up was marked by the surge in flights by Chinese fighter jets and nuclear-capable bombers into Taiwan’s ADIZ earlier this month.