China denies report of hypersonic missile test, says it tested space vehicle

The Chinese foreign ministry said it had tested a space vehicle instead. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China tested a space vehicle in July, not a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile as reported by the Financial Times, the Chinese foreign ministry said on Monday (Oct 18).

Quoting five people familiar with the matter, the Financial Times reported last Saturday that China had tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile that flew through space, circling the globe before cruising down towards its target, which it missed by about 40km.

The paper said the feat had "caught US intelligence by surprise".

"It was not a missile, it was a space vehicle," ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular press briefing in Beijing when asked about the report, adding it had been a "routine test" for the purpose of testing technology to reuse the vehicle.

The significance of a reusability test is that it can "provide a cheap and convenient method for humans to peacefully travel to and from space", Mr Zhao said, adding that many companies had carried out similar tests.

The foreign ministry said the test had taken place in July, not in August as reported by the Financial Times.

The US is closely watching China's military modernisation programme to assess the possible risks posed to it by its increasingly assertive strategic competitor.

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