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‘China Wants to Be the World’s Hegemon’: Rick Fisher on China’s Hypersonic Missile Test

In this special episode, we sat down with Rick Fisher, senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center. He touches on the recent media reports of China reportedly testing a hypersonic missile, why that’s significant, and what it means going forward.

Fisher said, “It’s a big deal for a number of reasons. China was accused by our Air Force secretary back in August of having tested something called a fractional orbital bombardment system. This is a kind of weapon that the Soviet Union developed in the 1960s to defeat early American missile defense systems. What it involves is putting a warhead, a nuclear warhead, almost into orbit, but not quite completing the orbit so that you can slow it down a little. And it comes down from orbit, and you actually have very little warning that it’s going to strike. And you can send the missile in the warhead to the south. Most Soviet warheads would have come over the North Pole. The fractional orbital bombardment system, or FOBS, was intended to come around under the South Pole, and come up through Latin America against the United States region where we normally do not deploy long-range early warning radar. So we would have been taken by surprise on a number of counts.

“China doing this now raises a number of very important concerns, starting with China’s intention to put nuclear weapons into space. This is banned, has been banned, and has been successfully banned under the 1967 United Nations Outer Space Treaty. China’s intention, as demonstrated by this test, to put nuclear weapons into space violates this treaty and also raises questions whether China will abide by any treaty in outer space, such as treaties governing the peaceful use of the moon. And that’s very important because we plan to go to the moon at least hopefully by 2024. And China intends to get there probably before 2030.”

Fisher also noted that “China wants to be the world’s hegemon. In order to do so, it has to have the world’s largest nuclear arsenal. It also needs to have its allies nuclear-armed so that the Americans can either be distracted by them, or at a minimum be deterred from attacking them. So at a minimum, the United States has to level the playing field. And the first thing that we can do is go back to our … defense treaty allies, South Korea and Japan, and say, ‘Look, we can’t do this without nuclear weapons anymore. … Can we start a new phase in our defense relationship in which we cooperatively base these weapons in your country,’ like we’ve done with some of our NATO allies, since the 1950s, presumably, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and Turkey. We’ve co-based the tactical nuclear bombs since the 1950s.”

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