CHINA has fired a hypersonic missile around the globe with the US left reeling by the terrifying display of military strength.
US intelligence and military officials were reportedly left stunned after China launched a rocket in space carrying a hypersonic glide vehicle which circled the globe before before speeding towards its target.
The nuke-capable missile missed its target by about two-dozen miles when it was secretly launched in August, intelligence sources told the Financial Times.
But the chilling test has alarmed US officials and shows how China has made astonishing progress on the development of its hypersonic weapons, sources said.
A hypersonic missile travels five times faster than the speed of sound and can reach distances of up to 1,500 miles, with Russia using the technology to build cutting-edge missiles in recent years.
Asian superpowers have been scrambling to build the powerful weapons in a terrifying arms race.
An Asian national security official and a Chinese security expert close to the People’s Liberation Army said the weapon in China was being developed by the country's Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics.
A number of rocket launches have been publicly announced by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology – but the hypersonic missile test in August was reportedly kept secret.
A source told the Financial Times: "We have no idea how they did this."
The missile is understood to have been launched on a Long March rocket – which is used for China's space programme.
Taylor Fravel, an expert on Chinese nuclear weapons policy, said a hypersonic glide vehicle armed with a nuclear warhead could help China "negate" US missile defence systems.
Fravel said: "Hypersonic glide vehicles… fly at lower trajectories and can manoeuvre in flight, which makes them hard to track and destroy."
He warned it would be "destabilising" if China fully developed and deployed such a weapon.
Two people familiar with the missile test said the weapon could, in theory, fly over the South Pole.
And this would pose a huge challenge for the US military as its missiles defence systems are focused on the northern polar route.
Although the Pentagon did not comment directly on the report, spokesman John Kirby said: "We have made clear our concerns about the military capabilities China continues to pursue, capabilities that only increase tensions in the region and beyond.
"That is one reason why we hold China as our number one pacing challenge."
Chinese embassy spokesman Liu Pengyu said China's military development did not target any specific country and it has always pursued a military policy that was "defensive in nature".
Liu said: "We don’t have a global strategy and plans of military operations like the US does. And we are not at all interested in having an arms race with other countries.
"In contrast, the US has in recent years been fabricating excuses like ‘the China threat’ to justify its arms expansion and development of hypersonic weapons.
"This has directly intensified arms race in this category and severely undermined global strategic stability."
MILITARY ON 'HIGH ALERT'
It comes as China has reportedly placed its military on "high alert" as state controlled media warned Taiwan of a looming "doomsday" amid fears of invasion.
Beijing and Taipei are feared to be sitting on the brink of a conflict which could end up drawing in the US and potentially spiralling into World War Three.
Dozens of warplanes have been buzzing into Taiwan's air space and mass beach landing operations have been carried out in exercises that are widely seen as rehearsals for – or at least threats of – a full scale invasion from China.
An article published by The Global Times, which is seen as the unfiltered mouthpiece of the Communist Party, warned Taiwan faces "doomsday".
Going on the fantasise about the potential war, the article describes how China would "deafen and blind" Taiwan by using electronic warfare before then raining down rockets and missiles.
China is also upgrading its military bases on its nearest coast with the island – further fuelling fears it is prepping for an all out attack.
However, despite their boasts – it has been warned that China could walk into its own "Vietnam War" if it chose to invade Taiwan.
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