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China denies testing ‘hypersonic missile’

Quick denial: A file photo of Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian in Beijing.   | Photo Credit: Andy Wong

China’s government on Monday denied a recent report saying it had carried out a test of a nuclear capable hypersonic missile, stating that the launch was a “routine test of a space vehicle”.

On Sunday, the Financial Times reported China’s military in August carried out its first ever test of a “nuclear capable hypersonic missile”, adding that the test “circled the globe before speeding towards its target, demonstrating an advanced space capability that caught U.S. intelligence by surprise”.

The newspaper quoted five people familiar with the test as saying the Chinese military launched a rocket that carried a hypersonic glide vehicle “which flew through low-orbit space before cruising down towards its target”.

Two of those people told the newspaper the test “showed that China had made astounding progress on hypersonic weapons and was far more advanced than U.S. officials realised.” Only the U.S., Russia and China were developing the hypersonic glide vehicles, the newspaper said, noting they are far more difficult to track than ballistic missiles.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry, however, denied the report. “As we understand,” spokesperson Zhao Lijian said, “this was a routine test of space vehicle to verify technology of spacecraft’s reusability.”

“It is of great significance to reducing the cost of using space vehicle and providing a convenient and cheap way for mankind’s two-way transportation in the peaceful use of space,” he added. “Several companies around the world have conducted similar tests. After separating from the space vehicle before its return, the supporting devices will burn up when it’s falling in the atmosphere and the debris will fall into the high seas. China will work with other countries in the world for the peaceful use of space for the benefit of mankind.”

The Financial Times quoted security experts as saying the test was conducted in August. It noted that the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, which carries out launches, had in July announced its 77th launch of a Long March rocket, and in end-August said it had carried out a 79th flight, sparking speculation about a secretive 78th launch that had not been reported.

Asked if he was referring to the same launch as reported by the Financial Times, Mr. Zhao said, “It’s not a missile, but a space vehicle.”


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Printable version | Dec 7, 2021 3:49:10 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/china-denies-testing-hypersonic-missile/article37061659.ece

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