China Earmarks Billions To
Counter Nuclear Attack
By Benjamin Kang Lim
BEIJING (Reuters) - China has decided to earmark 80 billion yuan ($9.7 billion) to boost its second strike capabilities in response to any nuclear attack, the Digest Weekly newspaper said in an edition seen on Sunday.
General Zhang Wannian announced that the Central Committee of the Communist Party and the State Council, or cabinet, have approved a proposal to "upgrade the capability of the armed forces' defence and counter-attack system", the weekly said.
The proposal by the Defence Ministry calls for "making a vigorous counterattack once hegemonists and their military alliance use nuclear weapons to make a surprise attack on China", Zhang was quoted as saying, in apparent reference to the United States.
China has accused the United States of harbouring hegemonistic ambitions and is opposed to the proposed Theatre Missile Defence system designed to shield U.S. troops in Asia against missiles from rogue states.
"The programme for China to develop effective second strike capabilities has been under way for a long time," said Robert Karniol, Asia correspondent of Jane's Defence Weekly in Bangkok.
The programme includes miniaturisation of nuclear warheads and the development of missiles capable of carrying more than one warhead and hitting multiple targets, military analysts said.
China, one of the world's five nuclear powers, has pledged not to use nuclear weapons first. The other four are the United States, Russia, France and Britain.
The People's Liberation Army (PLA) vowed to speed up its modernisation after the NATO bombing of Beijing's embassy in Belgrade in May.
The United States has apologised saying it was a mistake, but many ordinary Chinese and the state media are convinced it was deliberate.
The Digest Weekly said in its Friday edition that China has adjusted its security strategy.
In the future, China would focus on rapidly developing its high-tech counter-attack capability instead of merely defending itself within its own territory, said the weekly, which is published by the official Anhui Daily.
The PLA, which is trimming its numbers by 500,000 to 2.5 million by next year, would concentrate on possessing "command of the seas, electronics and electromagnetics", the weekly said.
Zhang, one of two vice-chairmen of the Communist Party's powerful Central Military Commission, quoted Jiang Zemin as saying real national security meant combining "political security, economic security and military security".
Jiang holds the top jobs in the party, the government and the military.
The PLA -- the world's biggest army -- ruffled regional feathers in 1996 when it conducted war games and missile tests in waters near Taiwan in the run-up to the island's first direct presidential elections.
The United States threw its weight behind Taiwan, sending two naval battlegroups to the area.
Tension between Beijing and arch-rival Taipei flared again in July when Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui declared that bilateral ties should be on a "special state-to-state" basis.
Beijing regards Taiwan as a rebel province and has threatened to invade if the island declared independence.
($1=8.277 Yuan)