In Focus

Published: Saturday 15 June 1996

The world may finally bid good bye to all nuclear test explosions. But there are a few stumbling blocks to be crossed before leaders from 93 countries give their final approval to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), by the end of the current session of the Conference of Disarmament, on June 28. The treaty, which seeks to ban nuclear tests including the smallest laboratory tests, will be opened for signature at the UN General Assembly in September.

This time around, negotiators will try and hammer out a consensus on the highly contentious terms of the treaty. The session began on a note of optimism as one of the main contenders, China, expressed its willingness to adopt a flexible approach on its demand that the treaty should allow peaceful nuclear explosions. The Chinese ambassador to the UN, Sha Zukang said, "We do not want to see a complete denial of the use (of peaceful nuclear explosions} to developing economies". In turn, China has proposed strict monitoring of 'peaceful blasts' for purposes such as largescale construction projects, mining, oil production and geological survey of minerals. Meanwhile, preparations are underwayat the Lop Nor test site in northwest China, to carry out two explosions sometime in May and again between September and October. The environmental group, Greenpeace said that it will protest against these tests by sending its peace ship to China.

Opposition to the treaty is also expected from India which has always maintained that the CTBT be linked to a commitment by the nuclear haves towards total nuclear disarmament. India's stand is likely to deter Pakistan from signing the treaty. India, Pakistan and Israel are consdidered to be on threshold of gaining nuclear power status. Said ambassador Stephen Ledogar, chief US negotiator, " A treaty without China or India would be a worst-case scenario".

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