- China is prepared to use nuclear weapons against the
US if it is attacked by Washington during a confrontation over Taiwan,
a Chinese general said on Thursday.
- "If the Americans draw their missiles and position-guided
ammunition on to the target zone on China's territory, I think we will
have to respond with nuclear weapons," said General Zhu Chenghu.
- Gen Zhu was speaking at a function for foreign journalists
organised, in part, by the Chinese government. He added that China's definition
of its territory included warships and aircraft.
- "If the Americans are determined to interfere [then]
we will be determined to respond," said Gen Zhu, who is also a professor
at China's National Defence University.
- "We . . . will prepare ourselves for the destruction
of all of the cities east of Xian. Of course the Americans will have to
be prepared that hundreds . . . of cities will be destroyed by the Chinese."
- Gen Zhu is a self-acknowledged "hawk" who has
warned that China could strike the US with long-range missiles. But his
threat to use nuclear weapons in a conflict over Taiwan is the most specific
by a senior Chinese official in nearly a decade.
- However, some US-based China experts cautioned that Gen
Zhu probably did not represent the mainstream People's Liberation Army
- "He is running way beyond his brief on what China
might do in relation to the US if push comes to shove," said one expert
with knowledge of Gen Zhu. "Nobody who is cleared for information
on Chinese war scenarios is going to talk like this," he added.
- Gen Zhu's comments come as the Pentagon prepares to brief
Congress next Monday on its annual report on the Chinese military, which
is expected to take a harder line than previous years. They are also likely
to fuel the mounting anti-China sentiment on Capitol Hill.
- In recent months, a string of US officials, including
Donald Rumsfeld, defence secretary, have raised concerns about China's
military rise. The Pentagon on Thursday declined to comment on "hypothetical
- Rick Fisher, a former senior US congressional official
and an authority on the Chinese military, said the specific nature of the
threat "is a new addition to China's public discourse". China's
official doctrine has called for no first use of nuclear weapons since
its first atomic test in 1964. But Gen Zhu is not the first Chinese official
to refer to the possibility of using such weapons first in a conflict over
- Chas Freeman, a former US assistant secretary of defence,
said in 1996 that a PLA official had told him China could respond in kind
to a nuclear strike by the US in the event of a conflict with Taiwan. The
official is believed to have been Xiong Guangkai, now the PLA's deputy
chief of general staff.
- Gen Zhu said his views did not represent official Chinese
policy and he did not anticipate war with the US.
- Additional reporting by Richard McGregor in Beijing