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BEIJING, China (Reuters) -- A senior Chinese general has warned that China was ready to use nuclear weapons against the United States if Washington attacked his country over Taiwan, the Financial Times newspaper reported on Friday.|
Zhu Chenghu, a major general in the People's Liberation Army who said he was expressing his own views and did not anticipate a conflict with Washington, nevertheless said China would have no option but to go nuclear in the event of an attack.
"If the Americans draw their missiles and position-guided ammunition onto the target zone on China's territory, I think we will have to respond with nuclear weapons," he told an official briefing for international journalists.
A spokeswoman for China's Foreign Ministry noted that the general had said in the article he was not speaking on behalf of the government. A spokesman later said the ministry was looking into the matter.
The Defense Ministry declined to comment, saying the Foreign Ministry had organized the event at which the general spoke.
Beijing considers Taiwan part of China, and has vowed to bring the self-governed democracy back into the fold. In March, China's parliament passed an anti-secession law authorizing the use of "non-peaceful means" to do so.
Zhu said the threat to escalate a conflict might be the only way to stop one because China did not have the capability to fight a conventional war with the United States.
"If the Americans are determined to interfere ... we will be determined to respond," he said.
"We Chinese will prepare ourselves for the destruction of all of the cities east of Xian. Of course the Americans will have to be prepared that hundreds ... of cities will be destroyed by the Chinese," he added.
China first tested a nuclear bomb in 1964. It has declared a policy of not using such weapons unless it has already suffered nuclear attack.
The newspaper observed that it was unclear what prompted the remarks, but noted that they were the most specific by a senior Chinese official in nearly a decade.
During a visit to Beijing earlier this month U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said there should be no unilateral change in the status quo over the disputed island of Taiwan.
"That means that we don't support unilateral moves toward independence by Taiwan. It also means that we are concerned about the military balance, and we'll say to China that they should do nothing militarily to provoke Taiwan," she added.