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Beijing Demands Explanation on US Nuclear Report - 2002-03-12

Beijing is demanding an explanation of reports that the United States could target China with nuclear weapons in a crisis. China is angry about this and other aspects of Sino-American relations, but has announced no specific diplomatic steps to retaliate.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi says the U.S. action reflects a "Cold-War mentality" that is out of step with the times.

"News reports that the Bush administration has put China in a group of possible nuclear targets are deeply shocking," Mr. Sun says. "The informal explanations senior U.S. officials have given in television interviews are not satisfactory."

According to the Los Angeles Times newspaper, the secret Pentagon "Nuclear Posture Review" was prepared for the U.S. Congress. It reportedly outlines the possible use of nuclear weapons in a crisis against countries that possess or are developing weapons of mass destruction. China has a small force of nuclear missiles.

According to the newspaper reports, the review says a U.S. war with China over Taiwan is possible and the U.S. military must be prepared for it. Taiwan split from China amid civil war in 1949, and Beijing considers the island a renegade province that should return to central government control. China has threatened to attack if Taiwan declares independence.

According to the newspaper reports, the nuclear strategy review is only for contingency planning and not a matter of immediate action.

In Tuesday's regularly scheduled press conference, Mr. Sun also expressed "strong indignation" over the current visit to the United States by Taiwan's defense minister. He says the visit violates agreements between Beijing and Washington and will damage bilateral relations.

But Mr. Sun did not announce any diplomatic steps China might take to show its displeasure over the Taiwan issue or the U.S. nuclear strategy.

Relations between the United States and China have been warming since last September's terror attacks on the United States. China has supported the U.S. war on terrorism.