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Saturday, July 16, 2005

China National News > U.S. chides Chinese officer for nuclear arms threat

U.S. chides Chinese officer for nuclear arms threatU.S. chides Chinese officer for nuclear arms threat

By Joel Brinkley
New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON — A Chinese general who said his country would use nuclear weapons against the United States if the American military intervened in any conflict with Taiwan drew a sharp rebuke from the Bush administration on Friday.
Sean McCormack, the State Department spokesman, called the remarks "highly irresponsible" — unusually strong language for McCormack, who was in Beijing with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice just four days ago. He added, "We hope that these are not the views of the Chinese government."
During an official briefing for a visiting delegation of Hong Kong-based reporters on Thursday, the officer, Maj. Gen. Zhu Chenghu, said China would "respond with nuclear weapons" if the United States attacked China because "we have no capability to fight a conventional war against the United States."
The general, who is considered a hawk, insisted that his comments reflected his personal view, not official policy.
China has long maintained that it would not be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict. But in China, it is quite unusual for any official to offer strong personal opinions contrary to government policy on important subjects.
Emotions in China run hot on the subject of Taiwan. A senior Chinese official, asked why Beijing was now spending large sums to build up its military, even with no perceivable threat, did not hesitate when he said, "But we do face legitimate threats, from the secessionists in Taiwan and from terrorists."
During a news briefing, McCormack said: "The United States is not a threat to China. We have a broad and deep relationship." He added, "The secretary has talked about the fact that this is a relationship that is probably the best U.S.-China relationship we've seen in quite some time."
Robert B. Zoellick, the deputy secretary of state, is on his way to Beijing, where he will begin a regular discussion with Chinese officials on the many issues of common interest and concern. As a result of all that, McCormack said, "The remarks from that one individual are unfortunate."

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