A senior military official in Beijing says China would be prepared to use nuclear weapons against the United States if Washington intervenes in any future conflict over Taiwan.
Major General Zhu Chenghu, a professor at China's National Defense University, told a group of foreign journalists that he does not anticipate war between China and the United States. However, in General Zhu's words, "If the Americans are determined to interfere" on the Taiwan issue, then China "will be determined to respond."
Such a conflict would be extremely costly to both countries, the general says, but under what he calls "war logic," China would have to rely on its nuclear arsenal, because it sees itself as unable to win a conventional war against the United States.
General Zhu told the journalists he was expressing his own views, and not those of the government. China has said many times that that it will not be the first to use nuclear weapons in any military conflict.
The military official's remarks were published Friday in a number of major newspapers. The reports say General Zhu spoke extensively and easily in English as he discussed China's position that Taiwan is a renegade province, not an independent state.
Those present quoted General Zhu as saying, "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." He is said to have added that China would act on the principle that its warships and aircraft are part of its territory.