Courtesy Reuters

No First Use of Nuclear Weapons

In his first speech to the General Assembly, the leader of Peking's delegation to the United Nations, Chiao Kuan-hua, stated on behalf of his government: "I once again solemnly declare that at no time and under no circumstances will China be the first to use nuclear weapons." And he continued: "If the United States and the Soviet Union really and truly want disarmament, they should commit themselves not to be the first to use nuclear weapons. This is not something difficult to do."

Chiao's remarks, and their prominence in the first official statement by a representative of the People's Republic of China before the United Nations, came as no surprise: the declaration that China would not be the first to use nuclear weapons has been a staple of Peking's foreign policy, constantly reiterated, ever since the first Chinese nuclear explosion in October 1964. From a Chinese point of view, such assurances made eminent good sense. In their first years, the few Chinese nuclear weapons and their manufacturing facilities offered a tempting target for a preëmptive enemy. Indeed, it was more than once rumored first that the United States and then that the Soviet Union was planning such an attack. Even today a first strike could very largely eliminate China's nuclear capabilities. In so far as a solemn declaration foreswearing first use tends to make it morally more difficult for others to use nuclear weapons against China, the P.R.C. continues to be well served by it. Moreover, it is also self-evident that, given the marked disparities between the Chinese nuclear force as it will be for the rest of the 1970s and the forces possessed by the United States and the Soviet Union, first use by China against either "nuclear superpower" (a term the Chinese use only derogatorily) would be suicidal.

Now that Peking is at last represented at the United Nations, it is likely that the theme of no first use of nuclear weapons will be heard with increased

Loading, please wait...

Related Articles

This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. Click here to learn more.