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China’s hypersonic missile test “very close” to “Sputnik moment”


General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned on Wednesday that China’s test of a hypersonic missile is “very concerning” and “very close” to the kind of “Sputnik moment” that sparked the space race during the cold war. .

Why is this important: The comments of the highest uniformed American general underscore the deep concerns of the United States about China’s rapid military expansion and the development of advanced weapons.

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The big picture: In 1957, the stunning launch of the Sputnik satellite by the Soviet Union sounded the alarm that the United States was falling behind in a technological race.

  • The Financial Times reported last week that China’s test of a hypersonic missile, which could provide a nuclear weapon that eludes U.S. missile defenses, took intelligence officials by surprise.

  • “I don’t know if it’s a Sputnik moment, but I think it’s very close to it. It has our full attention,” Milley told Bloomberg Television “The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer Conversations “.

Between the lines: Weapons experts have told Axios that “Sputnik” comparisons are not appropriate, noting that the technology used by China is similar to what the United States developed with the Space Shuttle program in the 1970s.

  • “The point about Sputnik is that the Soviets beat us to the end, they put the first satellite in place,” said Joshua Pollack, nuclear proliferation expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. “Other than the weapon payload, it’s an old hat for the United States.”

  • But the pace of China’s progress, coupled with its military aggression against Taiwan, expanding nuclear missile silos and wider geopolitical tensions with the United States, was enough to raise fears of a “new cold war.”

What they say : “They are developing rapidly – in space, in cyber and then in the traditional realms of land, sea and air,” Milley said. “And they’ve gone from a peasant infantry army that was very, very large in 1979 to a very capable army that covers all areas and has global ambitions.”

  • “As we move forward – over the next 10, 20, 25 years – there is no doubt in my mind that the biggest geostrategic challenge for the United States will be China,” he said. added. “They have developed an army which is really important.”

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