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Surprise Attack: No. 2 General in US Military Says China's Nuclear Arsenal Is First-Strike Capable

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The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff suggested that the U.S. might have already lost an arms race with China with regard to hypersonic missile technology that could put the country at the risk of a surprise attack.

Gen. John Hyten, the second most senior person in the military behind chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, addressed hypersonic missile technology with CBS News in an interview published on Tuesday.

According to Hyten, a Chinese missile test that was traveling at five times the speed of sound in July was a success. It shows that the U.S. military might not be ready to counter the threat.

“They launched a long-range missile… 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 glide vehicle hit its mark, Hyten said, “Close enough.”

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“They look like a first-use weapon,” Hyten also said. “That’s what those weapons look like to me.”

When asked if China’s test of a hypersonic missile is in any way comparable to the historic 1957 launch of the Sputnik satellite into orbit by the Soviet Union, he responded: “From a technology perspective, it’s pretty impressive.”

“But Sputnik created a sense of urgency in the United States. … The test on July 27 did not create that sense of urgency,” he told CBS News. “I think it probably should create a sense of urgency.”

China denied that any such test was conducted via a statement through foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian last month, the BBC reported. Lijian instead said the test was part of a routine spacecraft test.

“This was not a missile, this was a spacecraft,” the official said. “This is of great significance for reducing the cost of spacecraft use.”

According to Hyten, what was tested was a hypersonic missile capable of holding a nuclear warhead. A hypersonic missile is much different than the intercontinental ballistic missiles devised during the Cold War.

These missiles are launched and leave the Earth’s atmosphere before re-entering and striking their targets, and they can be monitored. Hypersonic missiles are hard to track.

Milley, in comments about China’s hypersonic missile technology last month, called China’s newest technology “concerning.”

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“What we saw was a very significant event of a test of a hypersonic weapon system. And it is very concerning,” the general said during an interview with Bloomberg TV, the New York Post reported.

“I don’t know if it’s quite a Sputnik moment, but I think it’s very close to that. It has all of our attention.”

Reuters reported last month that the Defense Department had completed its own successful test of a hypersonic missile in Utah. A previous attempt to launch such a sophisticated missile in Alaska had failed.

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Johnathan "Kipp" Jones has worked as a reporter, an editor and a producer in radio, television and digital media. He is a proud husband and father.
Johnathan "Kipp" Jones has worked as an editor and producer in radio and television. He is a proud husband and father.