China Conducts Underground Nuclear Test With AM-US-China-Nuclear, Bjt
BEIJING (AP) _ Ignoring a plea from President Clinton, China set off an underground nuclear blast Tuesday that jeopardized a moratorium on nuclear testing by the world’s atomic powers.
The United States and other nations denounced the Chinese test, which Western intelligence had predicted for weeks. Clinton immediately directed the Energy Department to prepare for possible resumption of underground nuclear testing.
China detonated the nuclear device early Tuesday at its Lop Nor testing site in the remote northwestern province of Xinjiang, about 1,450 miles west of Beijing.
Hours later, China issued a statement saying it was developing nuclear weapons for self-defense and reiterating that it would join negotiations in Geneva next January to ban all nuclear tests by the end of 1996.
″After a comprehensive test ban treaty is concluded and comes into effect, China will abide by it and carry out no more nuclear tests,″ it said.
In the meantime, the blast could undermine unilateral bans on nuclear testing observed by the world’s four other acknowledged nuclear powers - the United States, Russia, France and Britain.
In its statement, read over national radio and television, the Chinese government said moratoriums were of ″extremely limited significance,″ and urged nuclear powers to pledge not to use atomic weapons at all.
China’s test blast seems likely to worsen relations with the United States, already strained by differences over human rights, trade and arms proliferation.
Britain, involved in tough negotiations with China over the future of Hong Kong, condemned the test but expressed hope it would not set back prospects for a comprehensive test ban.
French President Francois Mitterrand said earlier this year that his country would resume test blasts if any other country did so.
The Chinese statement gave no details of the size or nature of the test.
Vipin Gupta, an American physicist and foreign affairs consultant with the London-based Verification Technology Information Center, said the detonated device was 80 to 90 kilotons, which is medium size.
China last conducted tests last year, in May and September. It is believed to have the smallest arsenal of the world’s declared nuclear powers - slightly less than Britain’s - with some 250 to 300 warheads.