Top U.S. military officer General Mark Milley provided the first official U.S. confirmation of what he called a quote 'very concerning' Chinese hypersonic weapons test that military experts say appears to show Beijing's pursuit of an Earth-orbiting system designed to evade American missile defenses.
The Pentagon has been at pains to avoid direct confirmation of the Chinese test this summer, first reported by the Financial Times, even as President Joe Biden and other officials have expressed general concerns about Chinese hypersonic weapons development.
Last week, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin declined to comment directly on that report.
(FROM OCTOBER 18) U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY LLOYD AUSTIN: "Well, thanks for asking the question, but I am not going to comment on those specific reports."
In an interview with Bloomberg, Milley explicitly confirmed a test and said that it was "very close" to a Sputnik moment -- referring Russia's launch of the first man-made satellite, which put Moscow ahead in the Cold War-era space race.
Hypersonic weapons are difficult to defend against because they fly at lower altitudes than ballistic missiles but can achieve more than five times the speed of sound, robbing adversaries of reaction time and traditional defeat mechanisms.
China's foreign ministry denied a weapons test. It said it had carried out a routine test in July, but added: "It was not a missile, it was a space vehicle." The United States and Russia have both tested hypersonic weapons.