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Chinese military eyes preemptive N-strike

Tokyo: In what could be a departure from China`s declared stand of a `no-first-use` policy, the Chinese military will consider launching a preemptive nuclear strike if the country finds itself faced with a critical situation in a war with another nuclear state, the Japanese media reported.

The newly revealed policy, called "Lowering the threshold of nuclear threats," may contradict China`s strategy of no first use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances, and is likely to fan concern in the United States, Japan, India and other regional powers about Beijing`s nuclear capability, the media here said, citing secret internal PLA documents.

The People`s Liberation Army`s (PLA) strategic missile forces, the Second Artillery Corps, "will adjust the nuclear threat policy if a nuclear missile-possessing country carries out a series of air strikes against key strategic targets in our country with absolutely superior conventional weapons," Kyodo news agency quoted documents obtained by it as saying.

China will first warn an adversary about a nuclear strike, but if the enemy attacks Chinese territory with conventional forces, the PLA "must carefully consider" a preemptive nuclear strike.

The documents suggest that the Second Artillery Corps educate its personnel in worst-case scenarios for conflicts with other nuclear states.

China`s nuclear policy is not transparent and it is rare for a part of it to come to light, Kyodo noted.

Commenting on the document, Akio Takahara, a professor of contemporary Chinese politics at the University of Tokyo`s Graduate School of Public Policy, said an adjustment of the PLA`s nuclear threat policy as spelled out in the paper runs counter to President Hu Jintao`s pledge that China will not launch a preemptive nuclear strike under any circumstances.

"It is uncertain whether such policy adjustment represents a policy shift or has been in existence from before," Takahara said.

"But a preemptive strike as assumed (in the documents) would apply to an extreme situation such as war with the United States, and that is almost inconceivable today. I think President Hu is aware of that."

US military experts have argued since around 2007 that Beijing may have shown signs of altering its pledge of no first use of nuclear weapons.

According to the documents, the PLA would strengthen nuclear threats against an adversary if the adversary threatened to attack China`s nuclear and hydro power plants and major cities, including Beijing.

The PLA would also tighten its nuclear threat policy in the event that extremely unfavorable war situations put the nation`s existence at risk.

Under such circumstances, the PLA would first warn an enemy of a nuclear attack on specific targets through such media as television and the Internet.

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