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Targeting China: U.S. nuclear planning and "massive retaliation" in East Asia, 1953–1955

Jones, Matthew (2008) Targeting China: U.S. nuclear planning and "massive retaliation" in East Asia, 1953–1955. Journal of Cold War Studies, 10 (4). pp. 37-65. ISSN 1520-3972

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Identification Number: 10.1162/jcws.2008.10.4.37


This article assesses how the U.S. National Security Council, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Strategic Air Command (SAC)—devised highly classified plans for nuclear war against the People's Republic of China (PRC) in the period after the July 1953 Korean armistice. The Eisenhower administration was seeking to rely more heavily on nuclear weapons in East Asia. Important differences of opinion emerged during intra- and interagency debates on the matter. The Air Force's preference for nuclear operations aimed at the total destruction of the PRC's military-industrial potential clashed with the State Department's desire to retain allied support by avoiding mass civilian casualties through selective targeting. The expansive nuclear planning that was eventually undertaken was an Asian counterpart to the “overkill” usually associated with SAC's plans for general war with the Soviet Union during this era.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2008 MIT Press
Divisions: International History
Subjects: E History America > E151 United States (General)
Date Deposited: 27 Sep 2013 11:23
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 00:50

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