CHINA is maintaining its pledge not to be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict, a top Chinese general said on Sunday.
Omission of the "no-first-use" pledge in a recently released defence white paper had created ripples in military circles and sparked speculation that China may have dropped the policy.
"I want to make a solemn statement that the Chinese government will never discard our pledge of no first-use of nuclear arms," Lieutenant-General Qi Jianguo told the Shangri-La Dialogue security forum in Singapore.
"We have been sticking to this policy for half a century, and its facts have proven that it is not only in the interest of the Chinese people but also of the people of all the world."
Lt-Gen Qi, deputy chief of the general staff of the People's Liberation Army, was queried about the omission after giving a speech at the two-day conference that ended Sunday. He said the white paper released in April did not go into details which was why the pledge was not explicitly mentioned.
Lt-Gen Qi, however, said a portion in the paper referring to the tasks of the Second Artillery Corps, China's strategic missile force, referred to the no-first-use pledge. "I want to clarify that," he said.
After testing its first nuclear weapon in 1964, China promised to never be the first one to use atomic weapons.
China does not disclose the size of its nuclear arsenal, but the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said the rising world power had an arsenal of about 200 operational nuclear weapons for delivery mainly by ballistic missiles.