Sat, Jul 16, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Fury over PLA official's nuclear threat

OUT OF BOUNDS An MAC official said that regardless of whether the aggressive words represented official thought or just a personal view, they warranted scorn

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AGENCIES

Officials yesterday condemned a Chinese military official's remarks that China was prepared to use nuclear weapons against the US if Washington attacked his country in a military conflict over Taiwan.

According to the Financial Times, Zhu Chenghu (朱成虎), a Major General in the People's Liberation Army (PLA), said on Thursday that, "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."

Zhu had made the remarks during a reception for foreign journalists organized in part by the Chinese government, the newspaper reported.

A Mainland Affairs Council official responded strongly to Zhu's remarks yesterday.

"We severely condemn Zhu's statement," said Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Vice Chairman You Ying-lung (游盈隆) at a press conference. "[Zhu] should offer an apology."

Zhu's statements, which seem to confirm some Taiwanese officials' worst suspicions about the PLA's hawkish leanings, are outside acceptable bounds of rhetoric in the international community, You said.

"After the two atomic bombs were dropped at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the international community doesn't want to see the re-emergence of nuclear catastrophe in the world," You said.

"Zhu's statement is a serious challenge to civilized society," he said.

Ministry of National Defense Spokesman Liou Chih-chien (劉志堅) also responded to the PLA official's comments, saying "the use of nuclear weapons is something that the international community will condemn."

Since its first atomic test in 1964, China's official doctrine has called for no first use of nuclear weapons.

But Zhu is not the first Chinese official to have referred to the possibility of using nuclear weapons in a military conflict over Taiwan.

Xiong Guangkai (熊光楷), now the PLA's deputy chief of general staff, once threatened to use nuclear weapons against the city of Los Angeles.

"Americans care more about Los Angeles than they do about Taiwan," Xiong told former US assistant defense secretary Chas Freeman in 1996 as a reminder that China's intercontinental missile force could target the US for siding with Taiwan in a cross-strait conflict.

While Zhu made his statement at an official briefing, he said that he was only expressing his own views, not that of the Chinese government, and added that he did not anticipate a conflict with Washington.

The Financial Times, however, described his threat to use nuclear weapons in a conflict over Taiwan as "the most specific by a senior Chinese official in nearly a decade."

You said the remarks were highly inappropriate, at the very least.

"It's doubtful that Zhu's statement represents his government's position," You said.

"If Zhu made his statement on behalf of the government, it was very serious. But if what he said was just his personal opinion, it was also inappropriate," You said.

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