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BRITAIN was prepared for nuclear retaliation against China in the event of an attack on Hong Kong, top-secret documents have revealed.
Letters circulated to Harold Macmillan, the Prime Minister at the height of the Cold War in 1961, recommended nuclear force, provided by the Americans, as the only alternative to abandoning the island colony if China attacked.
As a prelude to negotiations in the colony by Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Chief of Defence Staff, ministers discussed the delicate task of ensuring that the Chinese understood that , were they to attack, retaliation would involve the US dropping nuclear bombs. At the same time, the Government was keen to avoid the impression that Hong Kong was becoming merely a military outpost of the US, though Britain relied on her ally as an effective deterrent.
The secret records of the Prime Minister’s office between 1957 to 1961 were made public yesterday by the National Archives at Kew, southwest London, in response to a request under the Freedom of Information Act.