Nuclear test ban treaty hangs on question of site inspections

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 June, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 June, 1996, 12:00am

China's disarmament ambassador Sha Zukang confirmed yesterday that the issue of on-site inspections had become the biggest obstacle to clinching a global treaty to outlaw all nuclear blasts.

In an interview with Xinhua (the New China News Agency), Mr Sha said as the negotiations in Geneva entered a final stage, the question of on-site inspections would largely decide if there would be a nuclear treaty by June 28.

About 10 days ago, China raised the hope of signing a comprehensive test ban treaty when Mr Sha revealed Beijing was willing to drop its demand that the treaty allow for 'peaceful nuclear explosions'.

About the same time, China also announced it would conduct one final test by September.

The focus of that debate, Mr Sha said, had shifted to whether the treaty should also cover 'non-explosive' types of nuclear tests, such as those conducted in laboratories.

Mr Sha said the crux of the negotiations now centred on under what conditions a country should be required to be open to on-site inspections.

He said China insisted that on-site inspections should only be authorised when they were approved by more than two-thirds of the treaty signatories.

The Chinese ambassador rejected suggestions by some 'Western, developed' countries which recommended on-site inspections be carried out when intelligence gathered by individual member countries indicated a violation of the treaty.

Mr Sha said such loose control over on-site inspections could leave the treaty open to abuse.

In spite of the differences expressed by different member states, Mr Sha said he remained optimistic a treaty could be reached if all sides showed 'political willingness and flexibility' in the remaining days of negotiations.