Inside the Ring: Chinese Military Visit
By Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough
August 12, 2005

A Chinese general's threat to use nuclear weapons against "hundreds" of U.S. cities apparently was not serious enough for the U.S. Pacific Command to cancel a visit by Chinese military officials.

The commander of the Chinese military's Guangzhou military region, Gen. Liu Zhenwu, and five other PLA military officers traveled to Hawaii to meet with Adm. William J. Fallon, the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, on July 16.

That was the day after Gen. Zhu Chenghu, head of China's National Defense University, told reporters in Beijing that China will use nuclear weapons against "hundreds" of U.S. cities if U.S. forces defend Taiwan from an armed mainland attack.

Gen. Liu is the top general of the military region that imprisoned 23 U.S. military personnel who were forced to make an emergency landing on Hainan island in the South China Sea, after a Chinese pilot flew into their EP-3 surveillance aircraft over international waters. The incident caused a break in U.S.-China military ties.

Pentagon and Pacific Command spokesmen had little to say about the Chinese military visit, which also took place as the Pentagon released its annual report highlighting China's rapid military buildup.

The six-member delegation also visited the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and met with the Joint Staff director, Air Force Lt. Gen. Norton Schwartz, and acting Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England.

"The visit was a goodwill visit. Nothing substantive was discussed," a Pentagon spokesman told us.

Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, slated to be the next Joint Chiefs chairman, also raised a number of concerns among some Pentagon officials when he dismissed the nuclear threat from Gen. Zhu.

Though Gen. Zhu stated explicitly that China is "determined to respond" with nuclear weapons against U.S. cities in a Taiwan conflict, Gen. Pace said several days later that "there's absolutely no reason for us to believe there's any intent on their part" to use nuclear weapons.

Pentagon officials said Gen. Pace's comments were an official Joint Staff statement and reflected the ongoing efforts of pro-China officials in the Bush administration to play down the threat from China.