THE WASHINGTON TIMES
By Bill Gertz
China is building up its nuclear forces as part of a secret strategy targeting the United States, according to a former Chinese diplomat.
China's strategy calls for "proactive defense," and senior Chinese Communist Party leaders think that building nuclear arms is the key to countering U.S. power in Asia and other parts of the world, said Chen Yonglin, a diplomat who defected to Australia two months ago.
A recent comment by a Chinese general shows that Beijing's leaders are prepared to launch "a pre-emptive attack on the country considered a huge threat to China," Mr. Chen said.
Chinese Maj. Gen. Zhu Chenghu told reporters two weeks ago that China is prepared to use nuclear weapons against "hundreds" of U.S. cities if a conflict breaks out over Taiwan.
The former diplomat, who until recently was posted to the Chinese Consulate in Sydney, said the number of Chinese nuclear warheads is a closely guarded secret.
Asked about a Pentagon report revealing that China has 20 nuclear warheads that can reach almost all of the United States, Mr. Chen said, "We don't know the exact number."
"Everything about nuclear weapons is held by a very limited number of people," he said. "Even sometime vice ministers may not know because it is strictly controlled by the general staff and central party leaders."
The Pentagon report to Congress made public last week stated that China is "qualitatively and quantitatively improving its strategic missile force."
"It is fielding more survivable missiles capable of targeting India, Russia, virtually all of the United States and the Asia-Pacific theater as far south as Australia and New Zealand," the report said.
Chen, who is visiting the United States and testified before a House committee last week, said that during internal discussions among Communist Party and government leaders and military commanders, military leaders often have urged going to war against Taiwan, a self-governing island -- also known as the Republic of China -- that broke with the mainland in 1949.