The second-ranking general in the US military has sounded the alarm about China’s weapons development — warning that Beijing may soon have the capability to launch a surprise nuclear strike against America.
“They look like a first-use weapon,” Gen. John Hyten, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CBS News Tuesday. “That’s what those weapons look like to me.”
Hyten was discussing China’s test of a hypersonic weapon from this summer, which was first reported by the Financial Times last month.
“They launched a long-range missile,” Hyten said. “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 whether the vehicle had hit the intended target, Hyten answered, “Close enough.”
Hyten’s Tuesday interview came after a Monday night virtual meeting between President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping. It was not clear whether the two discussed the hypersonic test, though Biden expressed concern about it when the initial report emerged last month.
China has pledged since 1964 that it would not be the first party in a conflict to use nuclear weapons. The South China Morning Post reported in October that Beijing had reiterated its “no first use” policy, despite some officials urging a rethink.
The United States has repeatedly refused to adopt a “no first use” policy, but has vowed not to use nukes against countries that do not have them.
Last month, Hyten warned that China could soon surpass America’s military capability “if we don’t do something to change it.”
“What you need to be worried about is that in the last five years, or maybe longer, the United States has done nine hypersonic missile tests, and in the same time the Chinese have done hundreds,” he said.
“The pace they’re moving and the trajectory they’re on will surpass Russia and the United States if we don’t do something to change it,” Hyten added. “It will happen.”
Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described China’s hypersonic test as “very concerning” last month.
“What we saw was a very significant event of a test of a hypersonic weapon system,” said Milley, who later added: “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.”
Hyten stopped short of agreeing with Milley’s comparison when asked about it Tuesday.
“From a technology perspective, it’s pretty impressive,” he said. “But Sputnik created a sense of urgency in the United States … The test on July 27 did not create that sense of urgency. I think it probably should create a sense of urgency.”
The US has started to take some defensive measures in the Pacific following the test and is testing an Iron Dome anti-missile system in Guam.