Ministries: no Change in China’s “No First Use” Policy

In what could be a departure from China’s declared stand of a ‘no-first-use’ policy, the Chinese military will consider launching a preemptive nuclear strike if the country finds itself faced with a critical situation in a war with another nuclear state,

the Press Trust of India news agency quotes Japanese media (particularly the Kyodo news agency, apparently. According to those reports, a document titled Lowering the threshold of nuclear threats would suggest that the Second Artillery Corps educate its personnel in worst-case scenarios for conflicts with other nuclear states.

A Huanqiu Shibao report sees Kyodo’s report in the context of recent coverage on photos of a Chinese stealth fighter prototype, a potential rival to the US F-22—the world’s only fully operational stealth fighter, the world’s only fully operational stealth fighter so far, and more general international press coverage on a Chinese “aircraft carrier killing” missile (“航母杀手” 导弹) last year. The missile in question is the Dong Feng 21D, a game-changing weapon US naval planners were scrambling to deal with, according to an Associated Press (AP) correspondent in August last year.

Also according to the Huanqiu article, China’s foreign and defense ministries both refuted and condemned (驳斥并谴责) the Kyodo report on Thursday.

A report by Japan’s Kyodo news agency says that it had obtained so-called “Chinese internal documents” revealing that if China found itself in a critical situation in a war with another nuclear power, the Chinese military would “consider taking pre-emptive nuclear strikes” (中国军方将”考虑采取先发制人的核打击”). “If the enemy threatens to attack Chinese nuclear power or hydropower stations, or Beijing and other big Chinese cities, or if other extremely adverse war situations threaten China, the People’s Liberation Army may first issue a warning to the enemy, and make it clear that it will launch a nuclear strike against a specific target.” The [Kyodo] report also said that if the enemy attacked Chinese territory with conventional weapons (常规武器), the PLA “needed to seriously consider” this kind of nuclear strike, strictly obeying the instructions of the CPC’s Central Military Commission.

[…]

[…] Kyodo news agency commented that the lowering of the threshold of nuclear threat (降低核威胁门槛) as the central meaning of the paper would lead to concern in the US and Japan, and other powers in the region.

Many foreign news agencies immediately quoted from Kyodo. On January 5, Agence France-Presse headlined its report “China changes its nuclear plan”. Radio France Internationale said that the revelation of Chinese nuclear policy-related material was something that rarely happened and that it could mean that China’s policy of no first-use had already changed.

On January 6, a defense ministry official, replying to a written question by Huanqiu Shibao, officially refuted this report. The defense ministry said: This report is absolutely groundless (毫无根据的). The position of China’s nuclear policy is consistent and clear, and there is no change.” On the same day, foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei, on a regular press conference, severely criticized the report as “completely groundless” and “coming with ulterior motives” (别有用心).

___________

Note
Huanqiu refers to AFP and Radio France Internationale as quoting from the Kyodo report. If you can find AFP’s or RFI’s reports online or elsewhere, please send me the links. Thanks – JR

Related
外交部:中国在任何时候、任何情况下都不首先使用核武器, 四川新闻网, Jan 7, 2011

Update / Related
“Our reason for building a few is that we will have them if they have them. Nuclear weapons have only this function”,
International Security, vol. 35, issue 2, Fall 2010

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