The commander of the United States Pacific Fleet said Thursday that he would launch a nuclear strike on China if President Donald Trump ordered it.
"The answer would be: Yes," Adm. Scott Swift said, responding to a hypothetical question at a security conference at the Australian National University, according to ABC News.
"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.
The US Pacific Fleet is one of the two main strategic forces of the US Navy. It operates in the Pacific and Indian oceans.
The fleet encompasses three nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, 24 nuclear submarines and several dozen guided missile destroyers.
Commenting on Swift’s words, Vladimir Kozin, a Russian military expert and professor at the Academy of Military Sciences, noted that such statements are based on the nuclear strategy of the United States.
"The Americans have a list of countries they could attack with nuclear weapons if necessary. China is on this list.
China declared its no first use (NFU) policy in 1964, but the US has repeatedly rejected calls for adopting a NFU policy.
Moreover, the current US nuclear strategy presumes a preemptive nuclear strike," Kozin said.
According to the expert, this statement can be interpreted as an attempt to put pressure over Beijing.
"The US wants to force China to pressure North Korea over its nuclear program. In addition, it is a typical show of force by the US military," Kozin said.
He pointed out that such a statement would further push Moscow and Beijing together in military and strategic cooperation.
"This is a provocative statement and it’s dangerous. But it will further strengthen the commitment of Russia and China to strategic cooperation, including in the Pacific.
I think that amid such bold statements Moscow and Beijing should intensify military cooperation regarding nuclear weapons and missile defense," Kozin said.
Military expert Igor Korotchenko noted that China would immediately strike back in the event of a nuclear aggression and thus there is no risk of war between the US and China.
"He [the commander of the US Pacific Fleet] was not threatening China with a strike.
The question was whether he would obey the order and as a professional military man he said: yes. But I think Trump will not give such an order, even despite the tensions between Washington and Beijing," Korotchenko said.
According to the expert, a nuclear attack on China would immediately trigger a response.
"In the recent decade, China has been developing the mobile component of the nuclear forces, including mobile missile systems and submarines.
A hypothetical Chinese nuclear strike would inflict unacceptable damage on the US. Trump understands that and will not give such an order," Korotchenko said.
Viktor Murakhovsky, a Russian military analyst and editor-in-chief of the magazine "Arsenal of the Fatherland," echoed Korotchenko, saying that there is no reason for a US-China nuclear conflict.
"Let’s imagine for a second what would happen if a nuclear warhead hit an American city where millions of people live.
Despite the current hysteria among US political elites, they are not suicidal.
They will not go that far, no matter how it relates to China or Russia," Murakhovsky said.