Hype and secrecy abound where a country’s development of weapons is concerned. That is especially so when projects involve vehicles that can travel at hypersonic speeds or are nuclear-capable. Unsurprisingly, passions were stirred in Beijing when the United States Navy admitted one of its nuclear-powered submarines had had an accident in the South China Sea, and in Washington, when a Western media report claimed China had covertly tested a projectile able to carry atomic arms that had circled the Earth at more than five times the speed of sound. National pride is at stake, but so, too, is a desire to be seen to be a responsible world power. The rivalry between the US and China is driving development of sophisticated weapons systems that show prowess and strength. Nuclear submarines can stay under water for longer and manoeuvre more stealthily than conventionally powered counterparts. For one to have been in the contested waters of the South China Sea, where Washington is trying to push back against Chinese sovereignty claims in the name of “freedom of passage”, is not surprising given its regular sailing of warships through the area. For an accident to have occurred, but not reveal it happened for six days and to give scant information, as was the case with the USS Connecticut, is disturbing. Can this hypersonic weapon help China defeat armies without casualty? Possibly All the US Navy announced was that 11 sailors were injured when the submarine hit a mystery object in the South China Sea on October 2. It claimed the nuclear propulsion system was not damaged and the vessel returned to the US naval base at Guam for checks. The sea is criss-crossed with underwater communications cables, littered with sunken boats and containers and busy with shipping; dangerous conditions for large submarines and especially so when an accident could cause a leak of nuclear fuel. Such worries are the reason Australia’s acquiring of nuclear submarines in a partnership with the US and Britain has sparked concern in the region. The claim by five US intelligence sources that China had secretly tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile in August was quickly dismissed by Beijing. While such a weapon was on display in a military parade in 2019, the foreign ministry denied the report and said the event was a routine trial of a reusable spacecraft. Hypersonic weapons can fly at lower altitudes than conventional missiles and have greater flexibility, making them virtually impossible to intercept. The US and Russia are also developing such projectiles and North Korea claimed to have tested one last month. An arms race is not what the world needs between the US and China and their allies; it only increases the risk of conflict. The dispute between the nations is political and that requires regulation of behaviour and dialogue, not military provocation.