Washington: Central Intelligence Agency Director, William Burns, said on Thursday that China is the single most important geopolitical challenge of the United States in the 21st century.

"The second [challenge to shape the future] is the longer-term problem posed by China's ambitious leadership, the single most important geopolitical challenge as far out I can see into the 21st Century," Burns was quoted as saying by Sputnik during remarks at Georgia Institute of Technology.

Burns characterized President Xi Jinping's China as being in many ways the most profound test the CIA has ever faced.

Burns also pointed out that China had a GPD of about USD 15 trillion and is a top trading partner with 120 countries, and is a leader in artificial intelligence, 5G, drones, hypersonic technology and web applications.

This comes a few days after a senior defence analyst for space and counter space of the US Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), Keith Ryder warned on Tuesday that China and Russia plan to explore and exploit the natural resources of the moon and Mars over the next 30 years.

"Both nations (China, Russia) seek to broaden their space exploration initiatives together and individually, with plans to explore the moon and Mars during the next 30 years, and if successful, these efforts will likely lead to attempts by Beijing and Moscow to exploit the moon's natural resources," Ryder said during a press briefing.

US Defence Intelligence Agency published a new report on challenges to security in space that focuses on Russia and China as the main competitors of the United States in this domain.

According to this report, Russia and China seek to become leading space powers in the near future.

"Beijing and Moscow seek to position themselves as leading space powers, intent on creating new global space norms. Through the use of space and counter-space capabilities, they aspire to undercut US global leadership," the agency said.

The combined space fleet of Russia and China has grown by 70 per cent between 2019 and 2021, while in the 2015-2018 period the two countries increased their respective fleets by more than 200 per cent, DIA said.

"Between 2019 and 2021 the combined operational space fleets of China and Russia have grown by approximately 70 per cent.

This recent and continuing expansion follows a period of growth (2015-2018) where China and Russia had increased their combined satellite fleets by more than 200 per cent," the agency added.