Milley says China's 'very significant' hypersonic test creates 'strategic instability'

By Tony Bertuca / November 3, 2021 at 11:43 AM

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley today said the Pentagon remains concerned about a recent Chinese hypersonic missile test that he has characterized as a near-"Sputnik moment."

"That test that occurred was a very significant test," he said at an Aspen Institute event in Washington. "I won't go into anything classified."

Milley said the test is not a true “Sputnik moment” because that satellite capability was totally new when it was introduced by the Soviet Union in 1957, while the United States has been experimenting, developing and investing in hypersonic missile technology for years.

“In that limited, narrow sense, it's not a Sputnik moment because Sputnik was new at the time,” he said.

However, Milley added that when viewed in “totality” with China’s other military advances over the past four decades, the test is evidence of a “shift in geostrategic power.”

“We are entering into a tripolar world with the United States, Russia and China,” he said. “We’re entering into a world that is potentially more strategically unstable than say the last 40, 50, 60, 70 years. That means that we’re going to have to put a premium, in my view, on maintaining great power peace.”

Milley also said the Chinese military is “clearly and unambiguously building the capability” to provide options to the national leadership to attack Taiwan, though he does not think it is a near-term threat.

Because of the increased instability in the world, Milley said he is in favor of greater communication with the Chinese military and government.

“Part of deterrence,” he said, “is having the capability to impose costs on your opponent and making sure that you have the political will to actually use it, but also a third piece of deterrence that's really important is clear, unambiguous communications between both sides.”