News / Asia

China: No Changes to 'No First Nuclear Strike Policy'

China denies a Japanese media report that the People’s Liberation Army will consider launching a preemptive nuclear strike if threatened by another nuclear state.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei Thursday said Beijing has not changed its policy of never being the first to fire nuclear weapons in a war.

Hong says the Chinese government has pledged never to be the first country to use nuclear weapons - at any time or under any circumstances.  He says reports that China is considering changing the policy are "groundless and out of ulterior motives.”

Japan’s Kyodo News agency Wednesday reported that the Chinese military will consider launching a preemptive nuclear strike if China faces a critical situation in a war with another nuclear state.  The report relied upon internal People’s Liberation Army documents as its source.

Hong did not directly answer a question about reports that China is in the advanced stages of developing a new stealth fighter jet.  But he repeated reassurances that China follows a path of peaceful development.

Hong says China’s national defense policy is defensive and poses no threat to any other country.

U.S. military officials say the new jet is a so-called fifth-generation jet that is designed to be harder to spot on radar. U.S. officials say the jet is years away from being deployed.

Recent media reports have been full of other Chinese military developments, including news that China is close to putting to sea an old Russian aircraft carrier purchased in 1998.

U.S. military officials also say they believe a new Chinese anti-ship ballistic missile, that carries a warhead capable of destroying an aircraft carrier, has reached "initial operational capacity.”

All this comes as U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is due in Beijing next week, for the first visit by a U.S. defense secretary in five years.

The Chinese spokesman says his government always values its military relations with the United States, and hopes the Gates visit will increase further understanding and trust between the two militaries.

Military to military relations had been suspended because of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, a separately governed island that Beijing considers part of its territory.

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