china missile
© Zhang Haichao
China surprised U.S. officials by testing a new hypersonic missile in August that went around the globe before it made its way toward the intended target, a new report says.

China had made "astounding progress on hypersonic weapons and was far more advanced than U.S. officials realized," two people told the Financial Times Saturday, with another source adding he or she was unsure how China was able to accomplish it.

The country has tested 79 missiles so far, according to the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology. Five people with knowledge of the launch told the outlet that the missile flew in low orbit before going down toward its target, which it missed by 24 miles.

John Kirby, press secretary for the Department of Defense, said the United States sees China as the number one "pacing challenge" as the two countries work toward developing hypersonic weapons that travel at five times the speed of sound.

"We have made clear our concerns about the military capabilities China continues to pursue, capabilities that only increase tensions in the region and beyond," Kirby said.

But a spokesperson for China, Liu Pengyu, said China has no global strategy or plans of military operations.

"We are not at all interested in having an arms race with other countries," Liu said. "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."

A hypersonic missile would still be slower than a ballistic missile, but the weapon has the maneuverability that ballistic missiles lack, which helps them dodge and become harder for enemies to track.

The Washington Examiner has reached out to the Pentagon for comment but did not hear back by time of publishing.