The U.S. intelligence community was surprised by China's test of a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile showing a capability out of the ordinary.
After launching a rocket carrying a hypersonic glide vehicle through low orbit space, the Chinese military turned the globe and headed toward the target, missing it by about two dozen miles.
Intelligence sources briefed on the test said that it proved China was making remarkable progress in developing hypersonic weapons and was far more advanced than U.S. officials had initially thought.
According to sources, a faxed comment request sent by Reuters on Sunday was not immediately responded to by China's defense ministry.
Several other nations are also working on hypersonic missiles, including the United States and Russia. Among the weapons showcased by China was its hypersonic rocket, known as DF-17, along with other advanced technology. The trajectory of ballistic missiles when they travel into space is steep, and they return at some of the most incredible speeds possible.
Beijing's Foreign Ministry issued a denial of this report on Monday in response to the report, originally published by the Financial Times. When asked about the report, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a media briefing that back in July, a routine test had been carried out to test different types of reusable spacecraft technology.
"This was not a missile, this was a spacecraft," Lijian said. "This is of great significance for reducing the cost of spacecraft use."
As the Chinese military runs its space program, it is closely tied to developing hypersonic missiles and other technologies that could change the balance of power between China and the United States.
Also during a recent military display, China also showed what appeared to be a hypersonic missile platform.
On Monday, U.S. Disarmament Ambassador Robert Wood said the United States was "very concerned." He added that Washington "had held back from pursuing military applications for this technology.”
“We just don't know how we can defend against that technology, neither does China, neither does Russia,” Wood stated.