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War fears explode as US issues ‘sputnik moment’ warning over China missile launch

Joe Biden praised for 'not wavering' on China

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Top US general, Mark Milley, said the Chinese military is “expanding rapidly”. General Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said: “What we saw was a very significant event of a test of a hypersonic weapon system. And it is very concerning.

“I don’t know if it’s quite a Sputnik moment, but I think it’s very close to that.

“It has all of our attention.”

General Milley also warned that the Chinese military has grown “from a peasant-based infantry army that was very, very large in 1979 to a very capable military that covers all the domains and has global ambitions”.

But Beijing denies that the missile test happened, instead claiming it was a spacecraft.

This marks the US’s first official acknowledgement of China’s suspected missile tests over the summer.

The missiles are said to have been nuclear-capable missiles, that could evade US air defence systems.

The missile, which was fired in August, circled the globe before speeding towards its target.

The rocket reportedly carried a hypersonic glide vehicle that flew through low-orbit space before cruising down towards its target.

Two sources said the test showed that China’s technology was far more advanced than US officials had realised, having impressive progress, particularly on hypersonic weapons.

However, sources added that the missile missed its target by about two-dozen miles.

Hypersonic weapons are currently being developed by the US, Russia and China.

While the weapons are slower than a ballistic missile, travelling at five times the speed of sound, they are harder to track.

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Chinese nuclear weapons policy expert, Taylor Fravel, said the weapons could help China “negate” US missile defence systems, designed to destroy incoming ballistic missiles.

Mr Fravel, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said: “Hypersonic glide vehicles . . . fly at lower trajectories and can manoeuvre in flight, which makes them hard to track and destroy.”

According to the BBC, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby refused to comment on General Milley’s remarks, instead saying: “This is not a technology that is alien to us, that we haven’t been thinking about for a while.”

He also noted that the US is working to strengthen its defence systems and is currently developing its own hypersonic capabilities.

Just last week, the US conducted three of its own hypersonic missile tests, which will be used to “inform the development” of US weapons, US officials said in a statement.

According to AP News, CIA Director William Burns described the Chinese government as “the most important geopolitical threat we face in the 21st century.”

In a statement made in early October, the spy agency director said that the organisation would be stepping up its operations relating to China.

He said: “Throughout our history, CIA has stepped up to meet whatever challenges come our way.

“And now facing our toughest geopolitical test in a new era of great power rivalry, CIA will be at the forefront of this effort.”

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