China has disputed allegations that it launched a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile earlier this year, claiming that the test was merely a routine spacecraft inspection.
The initial revelation in the Financial Times caused alarm in Washington, where US intelligence was said to have been taken off guard.
Hypersonic missiles are far faster and more nimble than conventional missiles, making them more difficult to intercept.
It comes at a time when concerns about China’s nuclear capabilities are growing.
A regular test was carried out in July to validate different types of reusable spacecraft technology, according to foreign ministry spokeswoman Zhao Lijian, who addressed a media briefing on Monday.
“This was a spacecraft, not a missile,” he explained. “This is huge in terms of lowering the cost of spacecraft utilisation.”
Mr Zhao went on to say that comparable tests have been conducted in the past by a number of countries. He said “yes” when asked if the Financial Times report was false.
A hypersonic missile was fired in the summer, according to the article, which cited five unnamed sources. According to the article, it soared through low-orbit space before cruising down and just missing its objective.
“The test revealed that China had made incredible progress on hypersonic weapons and was far more advanced than US authorities realised,” according to the paper.
The United States, Russia, and at least five other countries are developing hypersonic missile technology with China.
They can travel faster than the speed of sound and, like ballistic missiles, can carry nuclear weapons.
North Korea announced last month that it had successfully tested a new hypersonic missile. Russia made a similar announcement in July, claiming that their missile was launched from a frigate in the White Sea.