10-year test ban proposal put forward

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 June, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 June, 1996, 12:00am

China said yesterday it is ready to agree to a 10-year ban on peaceful nuclear explosions in what it described as a 'major concession' to reach a global ban on nuclear testing.

Ambassador Sha Zukang unveiled the proposal to a plenary session of the UN Disarmament Conference being held in Geneva to hammer out a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

'The Chinese delegation is now ready to go along with a temporary ban on [peaceful explosions],' Mr Sha said.

'Namely, China can agree to a treaty provision that the possibility of permitting the conduct of peaceful tests shall be considered by the review conference of states parties,' he said.

China was until now the only one of the five declared nuclear powers, including the United States, Russia, Britain and France, which had opposed the so-called 'zero option' banning all military nuclear tests, saying it wanted to continue peaceful explosions.

'This is a major move of flexibility by the Chinese Government for the sake of an early treaty,' Mr Sha said.

Beijing's previous position had been one of the major obstacles on agreement on a key clause regarding the scope of the treaty.

However, Mr Sha said any future treaty should contain a clause allowing the conference to re-examine the issue.

Greenpeace International anti-nuclear co-ordinator Damon Moglen, initially hopeful peaceful explosions were being left out, said he was confused by the wording.

'We understand they said they are prepared to abide by a [Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty] if it specifically mentions a review conference involving peaceful nuclear explosions in 10 years,' he said.

'That is a different way of stating what they have been saying - it's a restatement in a somewhat adapted, somewhat concessionary way.' Meanwhile, Greenpeace was conducting campaigns to call attention to China's 'intransigent attitude'.

Outside the UN's Geneva headquarters Greenpeace sent up a hot-air balloon bearing the words: 'The world is watching you - ban all tests.' At the same time the ship MV Greenpeace was making its last stop in Manila before setting off tomorrow for Shanghai to take its appeal directly to China to accept a complete ban on tests.