China Sets Sights on Taiwan With New Hypersonic Missile Test
Hypersonic Missile Test Aimed at TaiwanMore
A visitor takes photos of replicas of space launch rockets Airshow China 2021, Sept. 29, 2021, in Zhuhai, southern China’s Guangdong province. (NG HAN GUAN/AP-FILE)
China is signaling that a stunning new missile test that reportedly surprised U.S. intelligence officials was not designed to accelerate an arms race with the West but rather to grant Beijing a strategic advantage to seize control of the Taiwan Straits and other hotly contested territory in its region.[
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The country’s English-language Global Times, considered a mouthpiece for the Chinese Communist Party, did not directly confirm details from a bombshell report in the Financial Times over the weekend that Beijing had successfully tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile in August. However, after repeating many of the report’s key details in an op-ed released late Sunday, it added that, if true, they amount to “a new blow to the U.S.’ mentality of strategic superiority over China.”
“China’s military buildup will focus on the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea,” the op-ed stated, after claiming China does not seek to challenge America’s dominant military position globally. “It is inevitable that China will take an upper hand over the U.S. military strength in these areas thanks to the geographical proximity and the continuous increase of China’s input.”
It added, “No matter how much military spending the U.S. increases and how much new equipment it procures, it is impossible for the U.S. to continue [to] enjoy overwhelming military superiority in China’s coastal areas. Washington needs to be realistic and rethink its approach to China.”
American officials have expressed grave concern in recent months that China may move to retake control of Taiwan by force in the near future. Beijing considers the isolated democracy to be nothing more than a renegade province of the mainland’s government.
A top Navy admiral overseeing operations in the region warned before retiring earlier this year that an invasion could come as soon as six years from now. Top officials in Taiwan have shortened that timeline since then.
Concerns have risen in recent weeks after China has flown an unprecedented number of war planes through Taiwan’s air defense zone, followed by other similar military provocations that Beijing claims are also in response to Western aggression.
The Biden administration has taken an increasingly hard-line stance against China in recent months, economically and diplomatically.
“We watch closely China’s development of armament and advanced capabilities and systems that will only increase tensions in the region,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told reporters traveling with him on an official trip to Georgia and other Eastern European countries.[
Officials in China refuted the more dramatic elements of the Financial Times report but did not deny it had tested new technology in August.
“According to my understanding, this test is a routine spacecraft test, used to test a reusable spacecraft technology,” Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, told reporters on Monday morning. “This could provide a convenient and cheap way for humans to use space for peaceful purposes.”
Other U.S. leaders, however, have expressed surprise and outrage at the test – both that intelligence agencies were reportedly unaware of it and at how the subsequent technology could affect America’s ability to deter China. As one person told the Financial Times on the condition of anonymity, “We have no idea how they did this.”
Existing weapons already travel at hypersonic speeds, including some intercontinental ballistic missiles. The difference with the new weapons that China reportedly tested this summer – akin to similar technology the U.S. is currently developing – is their ability to deliver nuclear payloads in new ways that could potentially defeat American missile defense systems.
Rep. Mike Waltz, a former career Army officer and among President Joe Biden’s most vocal critics, called the test a “Sputnik moment,” comparing it to the surprise Soviet satellite launch in the 1950s that exposed a technology gap in America’s spacefaring abilities and sparked widespread fears at the time.[
“Wake up, America. We must step up efforts to protect our research, tech, assets & national security NOW, not later,” the Florida Republican said in a tweet.
“Reports that China has tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile is a chilling display of the Chinese Communist Party’s capabilities and intentions,” Rep. Mike McCaul of Texas, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement early Monday.
He suggested American software and tools “contributed to the creation of this weapons system” because of what he described as “our country’s permissive export controls and licensing policies with China.”
“This should be a wakeup call for the Biden Administration to overhaul export controls and fundamentally reassess our technological ties to China,” McCaul said.
The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.