China confirms tests with new spacecraft after nuclear missile report

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The combination of the Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft and a Long March-7 carrier rocket is transferred to the launching area, May 16. (Photo/Xinhua)
The combination of the Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft and a Long March-7 carrier rocket is transferred to the launching area, May 16. (Photo/Xinhua)

China confirmed it has tested a new spacecraft with reusable technology.

Responding to journalists’ questions about a report by the Financial Times on an alleged test of a nuclear hypersonic missile in August, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in Beijing on Monday: “It was a spaceship, not a missile.”

He spoke of a “routine test.” It was about using technology again since this is important in space travel to reduce costs, he said.

“Many other countries and companies are doing similar tests,” he said without giving further details.

The remains of the spacecraft had fallen into the East China Sea.

The Financial Times, citing five anonymous sources, reported that the “missile” had circled the globe once in low orbit before missing the intended target by about 15 kilometres.

It was seen as evidence that China’s military was far more advanced with its hypersonic weapons programme than US intelligence had previously assumed.

Hypersonic weapons are particularly difficult to intercept because they can reach more than five times the speed of sound. Currently, both the US and Russia are working on hypersonic missiles. North Korea also said it had tested a hypersonic missile in September.

US Congressman Mike Gallagher saw the report as a wake-up call.

“This test should serve as a call to action. If we stick to our current complacent course, or place our hopes in bankrupt buzzwords like ‘integrated deterrence,’ we will lose the New Cold War with Communist China within the decade,” he said in a statement.

Gallagher believes that China increasingly has the capability to undermine US missile defences and even threaten the country with nuclear strikes.

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