'63 Tapes Reveal Kennedy and Aides Discussed Using Nuclear Arms in a China-India Clash
On the tapes, Robert S. McNamara, who was President Kennedy's defense secretary, is heard to say: "Before any substantial commitment to defend India against China is given, we should recognize that in order to carry out that commitment against any substantial Chinese attack, we would have to use nuclear weapons. Any large Chinese Communist attack on any part of that area would require the use of nuclear weapons by the U.S., and this is to be preferred over the introduction of large numbers of U.S. soldiers."
Mr. McNamara said in a telephone interview on Thursday that he could not remember the conversation, "but it is probably correct."
Minutes later, after hearing from Mr. McNamara and two other advisers, President Kennedy says, "We should defend India, and therefore we will defend India" if attacked. It is not clear from the tapes whether Mr. Kennedy was speaking of using nuclear weapons or of defending India in more conventional terms.
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