Chinese leader Mao Tse-tung wanted the Soviets to attack U.S. troops with nuclear weapons after his forces had lured the Americans into China, according to a memoir by Soviet President Andrei A. Gromyko, the New York Times reported Monday.
Gromyko said he rejected the Chinese proposal in a secret visit to Beijing in August, 1958, when Gromyko was foreign minister, the newspaper said.
In his wide-ranging memoirs, which are to be published soon in the Soviet Union, Gromyko wrote that Mao’s plan anticipated an American attack on China as a result of mounting tensions over the Chinese islands of Quemoy and Matsu.
The islands, claimed by the Nationalist government in Taiwan, became the center of an international crisis in September, 1958, when they came under artillery bombardment from China, which did not have nuclear weapons at the time.
Mao told Gromyko that Chinese forces would retreat to the heartland of China, drawing American forces after them.
Once U.S. forces were deep in Chinese territory, Mao proposed that “the Soviet Union should catch them with all its means,” Gromyko wrote.
Gromyko wrote that he was surprised by the audacity of Mao’s plan to use nuclear weapons against U.S. forces, the newspaper reported. He told the Chinese leader, “The scenario of war described by you cannot meet a positive response by us,” said the newspaper in a dispatch from Moscow, quoting from an advance copy of the memoirs.
Soviet historians have written that Mao believed his country could survive a nuclear war, even if it lost 300 million people, and finish off the capitalists with conventional weapons.
Gromyko’s visit with Mao came at a time of increasing tension between the two communist countries, when China was seeking nuclear weapons and the Soviets had promised to supply an atomic bomb, the newspaper said.
The Soviets never provided an atomic weapon, and China exploded a nuclear device in 1964.