China’s top diplomat, Sha Zukang: China ‘must be prepared to make first nuclear strike’ in response to AUKUS pact



China ‘must be prepared to make the first nuclear strike’ in response to growing US presence in the region and AUKUS strategic partnership, senior diplomat declares

  • China should abandon ‘no-first-use’ policy meaning nukes can only be used to retaliate, senior diplomat said 
  • Sha Zukang argued new Pacific alliances – such as AUKUS – mean China should take a more aggressive stance
  • He spoke amid a huge expansion of China’s nuclear forces, with 300 silos thought to be under construction
  • China has also upgraded its nuclear missiles and bombers in recent years, as it asserts authority in the Pacific 

By Chris Pleasance for MailOnline

Published: 12:55 BST, 24 September 2021 | Updated: 13:11 BST, 24 September 2021

China must be ready to use nuclear weapons and should abandon its ‘no-first-use’ policy to push back against new alliances forming in the Pacific, a senior diplomat has said. 

Sha Zukang, the country’s former ambassador to the UN, told a summit of Chinese nuclear policy experts that it is time to ‘re- examine and fine-tune’ a long-standing commitment to only use nukes in retaliation as the US ‘builds new military alliances and as it increases its military presence in our neighbourhood.’

Beijing’s current policy – which has been in place since the 1960s – has given China the ‘moral high ground’ but ‘is not suitable . . . unless China-US negotiations agree that neither side would use [nuclear weapons] first,’ he said at a meeting in Beijing last week.

Zukang’s comments – which come as China builds hundreds of new nuclear missile silos – are significant because Beijing often floats changes of policy through senior diplomats. The body he was speaking to – the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association – is officially independent, but has strong ties to the Communist party.

He spoke in the same week the US announced a major new alliance with the UK and Australia – dubbed AUKUS – to provide the latter with its first nuclear-powered submarines, a major technological advancement that is clearly designed to counter-balance Chinese power in the Pacific.

Zukang’s warning also comes in the wake of another alliance between the US, India, Japan and Australia – dubbed the Quad – with Joe Biden set to host the first in-person summit of leaders today. While the four are cooperating on a range of security issues, the growing threat from China is at the top of the agenda.


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