China’s test of a hypersonic missile over the summer “went around the world,” the second most senior US general said in an interview released Tuesday, shedding new details on the test and warning that China might one day be able to launch a surprise nuclear attack on the United States.
“They launched a long-range missile,” General John Hyten, the outgoing vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told CBS News. “It went around the world, dropped off a hypersonic glide vehicle that glided all the way back to China, that impacted a target in China.”
When asked if the missile hit the target, Hyten said, “Close enough.”
Hyten, who previously called the pace at which China’s military is developing capabilities “stunning,” warned that one day they could have the capability to launch a surprise nuclear attack on the US.
“Why are they building all of this capability?” Hyten said. “They look like a first-use weapon. That’s what those weapons look like to me.”
The revelations about the test come amid heightened tensions over Taiwan as China seeks to expand its weapons capabilities. The Pentagon warned in a report released earlier this month that China is rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal and may have 1,000 nuclear warheads by the end of the decade.
The US currently has 3,750 nuclear warheads in its stockpile, according to the latest data from the State Department, dwarfing the size of China’s nuclear stockpile
China has denied it has tested hypersonic weapons.
In October, the Financial Times reported about a Chinese test of a hypersonic glide vehicle launched from a rocket in low-Earth orbit that could theoretically be capable of evading US missile defense systems. The speed with which the Chinese developed the system surprised US national security officials.
As China and Russia are developing their own versions of hypersonic missiles, the Pentagon has made developing hypersonic weapons one of its top priorities. A US hypersonic missile test failed last month but the Pentagon insists it remains on track to deliver offensive hypersonic weapons in the early 2020s.
CNN’s Oren Liebermann and Alex Marquardt contributed to this report.