China conducted its fourth hypersonic missile test last week, according to reports, in a move that has been dubbed an “extreme manoeuvre” by the US.
The Washington Free Beacon has reported that China’s defence ministry confirmed on Friday that it had carried out a fourth test of a new hypersonic strike vehicle last week.
“The scheduled scientific research and experiments in our territory are normal, and those tests are not targeted at any country and specific goals,” the ministry told the publication.
The US Pentagon has called the hypersonic glide vehicle ‘Wu-14’ - which can reportedly travel up to 10 times the speed of sound - and said last week’s test carried out in Western China involved “extreme manoeuvres” from the weapon.
The South China Morning Post reported that the test was the fourth to be carried out in the space of 18 months, and took place the day before China’s central military commission vice-chairman Fan Changlong embarked on a visit to the US.
He is expected to have discussed concerns over the disputed islands in the South China Sea with US defence secretary Ash Carter, according to state media.
Tensions have been rising between the US and China over the contested islands, and a defence policy specialist told the South China Morning Post the test was likely a response to the US publicising a surveillance flight over the area last month.
China's territorial disputes
China's territorial disputes
1/5 South China Sea
A satellite image of what is claimed to be an under-construction airstrip at Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands in the disputed South China Sea
2/5 South China Sea
Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef
3/5 South China Sea
A Chinese Guided Missile Frigate Hengshui docked at a port in Yalong Bay in Sanya, south China's Hainan Province. China's military compared its controversial island reclamation project in the South China Sea to ordinary construction going on in other parts of the country, such as the building of roads and apartments
4/5 South China Sea
The alleged on-going land reclamation of China at Subi reef is seen from Pagasa island (Thitu Island) in the Spratlys group of islands in the South China Sea, west of Palawan, Philippines
5/5 South China Sea
U.S. military forces aboard Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAV) manuevre on South China Sea near the shore of San Antonio, Zambales during the annual "Balikatan" (shoulder-to-shoulder) war games with Filipino soldiers in northern Philippines. The U.S. Marine Corps is bringing together foreign commanders from amphibious forces deployed mostly in the Asia-Pacific for a conference aimed at taking initial steps to integrate their operations, with China excluded from the event, according to officials and planning documents
Professor He Qisong, at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, told the newspaper: “The Wu14… is designed to penetrate US missile defence systems, meaning the People’s Liberation Army is capable of defending China’s territorial sovereignty.
“But such a test is only a nuclear deterrence. Neither China nor the US wants to declare war over the South China Sea issues,” he said.