A day after the director of the CIA called China the greatest threat to the United States — and right as China began live-fire naval drills off the Korean Peninsula — an admiral of the U.S. military said Thursday that he would be willing to launch a nuclear strike against China.
“The answer would be: yes,” Admiral Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, answered at a security conference in Australia when asked whether he would nuke China if ordered to do by President Donald Trump.
“Every member of the US military has sworn an oath to defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic and to obey the officers and the president of the United States as commander and chief appointed over us,” Swift said.
Continuing, the admiral warned against the notion of the U.S. military going rogue and operating under its own directives and said following the orders of a non-military leader cuts to the very heart of American principles and values:
“This is core to the American democracy and any time you have a military that is moving away from a focus and an allegiance to civilian control, then we really have a significant problem.”
As Swift was making his comments in Australia, the Chinese navy was beginning high-profile drills involving its lone aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, in the Yellow Sea off the western coast of the Korean Peninsula.
The drills are scheduled to last through Saturday and thought by most analysts to be a flexing of military might ahead of the 90th anniversary of the founding of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
Ni Lexiong, a military affairs commentator based in Shanghai, for instance, told the South China Morning Post that while the drills are likely meant to be “a very subtle message to North Korea,” as the Hermit Kingdom continues to refuse to abandon its nuclear ambitions, China’s leaders also probably had the United States in mind:
“Ni said the naval drill could also be sending a message to the US at a time when tensions have resurfaced over a slew of issues including the South China Sea dispute.”
Noting that “the US has been quite active in the region recently,” Ni said Thursday the drills may be a counter to recent joint maritime exercises conducted by the U.S., Japan, and India in the waters of the East and South China Seas.
News of the Chinese drills comes only a day after CIA Director Mike Pompeo told the Washington Free Beacon he thinks the Asian nation has “the capacity to present the greatest rivalry to American” military and that the Chinese have to come to “see themselves as a rival superpower” to the United States.
“I think China presents probably the most…well it’s hard to pick between China, Russia and Iran to be honest with you,” he answered when asked which nation poses the greatest security threat to the U.S. “I guess if I had to pick one with a nose above the others, I’d probably pick China.”
Continuing, Pompeo stated that much of that reason has to do with the robustness of the Chinese economy.
“They have a real economy that they have built, unlike Russia that lives and dies on how many barrels of oil they can pluck out of the ground,” he said. “And Iran that is similarly very single sector derivative and not to the scale of China population wise.”
Like Ni told the South China Morning Post regarding the Chinese naval drills, Pompeo says China is “very much focused on countering U.S. power projection” and that part of the country’s strategy is “to reduce the relative power of the United States” through bolstering its own.
Indeed, says Director Pompeo, China frames its perception of itself as a global superpower in terms of how it is viewed against the U.S. — and the U.S. alone.
“But I think it’s very clear when they think about their place in the world, they measure their success in placing themselves in the world where they want to be vis-à-vis the United States and not as against anyone else.”
This article is republished under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license