Written by By Staff Writer
The U.S. Air Force’s most senior general has described China’s recent new super-high altitude missile test as “very close” to the moment of the first man-made satellite that led to the birth of a new era of space exploration.
Speaking at a strategy retreat for U.S. defense experts in Palm Springs, California, Air Force Gen. David Goldfein said that the test last November of an intercontinental ballistic missile, capable of carrying multiple warheads, was a significant weapon in the competition between China and the United States for the first-mover’s edge in space.
“The space race is no longer theoretical,” Goldfein said. “The Chinese test is very close to the day when China becomes the first country to put a man in space and put a satellite in orbit without the United States. That is where we’re at.”
The test is “critical” to forcing the United States to “adapt its force structure” in the absence of what he termed “an adaptive concept of operations” against China’s ballistic missile threat, he added.
China, in turn, claimed the tests were aimed at “absolutely no-one” and were set to “boost the regional and international security situation.”
The claim is unlikely to reassure western nations that worry about the power of China’s growing military and economic might.
The U.S. Geological Survey reported on November 21 that it had detected a 6.9 magnitude earthquake in the ocean off the coast of the southern Chinese province of Hainan. The epicenter was 230 kilometers (145 miles) southwest of Zhanjiang city on Hainan Island, where the target missile site was located.
A ballistic missile prototype is displayed at the PLA Army’s annual meeting in 2014. Photographer: Minxin Pei/AP
There has been significant tension between China and the West over what it perceives as its success in the development of high-precision long-range missiles, following a series of high-profile tests in recent years.
Last March, a Chinese SLBM test launch outclassed its Western rivals by hitting and landing a target involving the aircraft carrier Liaoning.