China Denies Hypersonic Missile Test, Biden White House ‘Welcomes Stiff Competition’

This Sept. 28, 2021, file photo provided by the North Korean government shows what North Korea claims to be a new hypersonic missile launched from Toyang-ri, Ryongrim County, Jagang Province, North Korea. North Korea on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021 warned the United Nation's top body against making any statements criticizing …
Associated Press

The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Monday denied reports that it stunned U.S. intelligence analysts by testing a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile in August, while the Biden White House responded to the report by saying it “welcomes stiff competition” from the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

A report on Saturday said the U.S. intelligence community was taken by surprise when China conducted a secret test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that circled the world in low orbit, then deployed a hypersonic vehicle to deliver its simulated payload to the target area. Hypersonic vehicles use low-altitude maneuvers at very high speeds to evade tracking systems and interceptors.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian insisted on Monday that the test described by the Saturday report was actually a routine experiment with peaceful spacecraft technology, not a weapons test.

“This test was a routine spacecraft experiment to verify the reusable technology of spacecraft, which is of great significance for reducing the cost of spacecraft use. It can provide a convenient and cheap way for humans to use space peacefully. Many companies in the world have carried out similar experiments,” Zhao said.

The Associated Press

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian gestures as he speaks during a daily briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office in Beijing. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

“What separated from the spacecraft before returning was the supporting equipment of the spacecraft, which was burned and disintegrated in the process of falling into the atmosphere and landed on the high seas,” he claimed.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin declined to comment on the reported hypersonic weapons test at a press conference on Monday.

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin holds a briefing in Tbilisi on October 18, 2021. (Photo by Vano SHLAMOV / AFP) (Photo by VANO SHLAMOV/AFP via Getty Images)

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin holds a briefing in Tbilisi on October 18, 2021. (Photo by VANO SHLAMOV/AFP via Getty Images)

“What I can tell you is that we watch closely China’s development of armaments and advanced capabilities, and systems that will only increase tensions in the region,” Austin told reporters.

“You heard me say before that China is a challenge and we’re going to remain focused on that,” he added.

Asked about the report on Monday, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki echoed Austin in refusing to comment.

“I can say, and would echo what he said, which is that generally speaking, we have made clear our concerns about the military capabilities that the PRC continues to pursue,” she said.

“We have been consistent in our approach with China,” Psaki said. “We welcome stiff competition, but we do not want that competition to veer into conflict, and that is certainly what we conveyed privately as well.”

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