China’s reported hypersonic missile test, according to a top US general, is “near to a Sputnik moment,” alluding to the Soviet satellite launch that began the Cold War weapons race.
In an interview with Bloomberg News, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley stated that the Chinese military is “growing quickly.”
According to the Financial Times, the US military was taken aback by the test.
Beijing claims the test was a spaceship rather than a missile.
“What we witnessed was a historically momentous test of a hypersonic missile system. It’s also quite troubling “Bloomberg quoted Gen. Milley as saying.
“I’m not sure if it’s exactly a Sputnik moment, but I believe it’s near. It has our undivided attention.”
His remark is the United States’ first public confirmation of accusations that China conducted two missile tests this summer. According to reports, it was a nuclear-armed missile capable of eluding US air defense systems.
Sputnik, the Soviet satellite launched in 1957, astounded Americans, who believed the Soviets were gaining technical advantage.
The incident prompted President John F. Kennedy to vow that the United States will place men on the Moon in less than a decade.
“This is not a technology that is unfamiliar to us, that we haven’t been thinking about for a while,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said of the general’s statements.
He went on to say that the US was strengthening its defense systems and developing its own hypersonic capabilities.
Hypersonic missiles have a maximum speed of five times that of sound.
They are said to be more maneuverable than conventional missiles and capable of dodging air defense interceptions.
Three hypersonic missile tests were conducted last week at a Nasa facility in Virginia.
According to US authorities, the tests would be used to “guide the development” of future hypersonic weapons.
In 1979, the Chinese military had expanded “from a peasant-based infantry force that was very, very vast to a very competent military that spans all areas and has global ambitions,” according to Gen Milley.
According to CNN, CIA Director Bill Burns last week labeled China as the United States’ greatest technology danger. He stated earlier this month that the espionage agency will increase its activities in China.
The White House of President Joe Biden has described the US-China relationship as one of “strategic rivalry.”
Last month, Gen. Milley faced calls to resign and was accused of treasonous behavior after it was revealed that in the last days of the Trump administration, he guaranteed his Chinese counterpart that the US would not launch a nuclear strike.
The calls, according to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were “fully within the duties and obligations” of his job.