France Defends Right to Nuclear Reply to Terrorism
BREST, France — France said on Thursday it would be ready to launch a targeted nuclear strike against any state that carried out a terrorist attack on French soil.
In a speech defending France’s costly nuclear deterrent and toughening policy against terrorism, President Jacques Chirac said Paris must be able to hit back hard at a hostile state’s centers of power and its “capacity to act.”
“The leaders of states who would use terrorist means against us, as well as those who would consider using in one way or another weapons of mass destruction, must understand that they would lay themselves open to a firm and adapted response on our part,” Chirac said during a visit to northwestern France, where France’s nuclear submarines are based.
“This response could be a conventional one. It could also be of a different kind.”
Chirac said all of France’s nuclear forces had been configured with this strategy in mind and the number of nuclear warheads on French nuclear submarines had been reduced to allow targeted strikes.
It was the first time he had so clearly linked the threat of a nuclear response to a terrorist attack, but he made no mention of any specific threat against France.
“Against a regional power, our choice would not be between inaction or annihilation,” he said.
“The flexibility and reactivity of our strategic forces would enable us to exercise our response directly against its centers of power and its capacity to act.”