Missing a Good Opportunity
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. -General Zhu Chenghu (source)
A spokesman for the American State Department characterized the recent comments by General Zhu, who is a professor at China's National Defense University, as "irresponsible" and "unfortunate."
As many of the articles on General Zhu's comments pointed out, this is not the first time a PLA general has threatened America with nuclear attack if America defends Taiwan:
Xiong Guangkai, now the PLA's deputy chief of general staff, once threatened to use nuclear weapons against the city of Los Angeles.
'Americans care more about Los Angeles than they do about Taiwan,' Xiong told former US assistant defense secretary Chas Freeman in 1996 as a reminder that China's intercontinental missile force could target the US for siding with Taiwan in a cross-strait conflict.(source)
A better characterization than that of the State Department spokesman comes in the form of a quote from French President Chirac in reference to an unrelated situation in European politics:
It is not really responsible behavior. It is not well brought-up behavior. They missed a good opportunity to keep quiet.(source)
China obviously has the right to defend itself from attack but this would clearly represent a departure from China's no first use (NFU) policy if this were official policy and not just a lone general (or pair of generals) shooting off at the mouth.
While countless others have blogged this subject, the best title for a blogpost award clearly goes to Imagethief with "How Not to Alarm People, Lesson One: Don't Mention the Nukes."
Update:Interesting analysis of the subject at Zenpundit, who offers China's Khrushchev Moment, Writ Small, and Tigerhawk, who speaks to "The rationality of irrational Chinese sabre-rattling."