Clinton set to ban all nuclear tests: Reagan warns 'open your eyes' as Star Wars is finally scrapped

THE Clinton administration, fresh from abolishing the Star Wars missile defence programme, is now expected to announce that it will endorse a complete nuclear test ban from 1996.

A nine-month moratorium on underground nuclear testing, imposed last September by the US Congress, is due to expire on 1 July, and President Bill Clinton is under mounting pressure to make clear his position on the issue. Britain is affected directly because it conducts tests in the Nevada desert.

As Mr Clinton ponders the future of the programme, he has come under fierce attack from the former president Ronald Reagan for cutting back too quickly on defence spending. In a speech on Saturday, Mr Reagan suggested that America's leaders 'open their eyes and take a long hard look' at remaining security risks. He particularly lamented the end of Star Wars, which he launched in 1983.

The testing ban enacted by Congress last year stipulated that there should be no testing until July this year, after which the US government would be permitted to carry out just 15 tests in a period lasting until September 1996. From that date, however, a comprehensive ban would come into effect.

Mr Clinton is believed to have rejected arguments put to him by some nuclear scientists and military experts that he should seek an amendment to the law allowing the US to pursue a limited number of low-level underground nuclear blasts beyond 1996. Many in the administration believe such a move would undermine efforts to dissuade countries with nuclear aspirations, such as North Korea and Iran, from pursuing weapons development programmes.

It remains possible that Mr Clinton could go a step further and forgo even the opportunity to conduct 15 tests between July and 1996, thus keeping the current moratorium in place. Such a step would be popular with the administration's own Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and many in Congress.

Britain, however, has made plain its strong desire to resume testing from July. Any attempt to close that window would draw strong diplomatic protests from London. But the British government has so far taken no firm position on whether it could accept a ban from 1996.

Senior officials in Mr Clinton's National Security Council discussed the issue last Friday and reportedly reached no conclusions. But the President will have to make his position clear before the 1 July date for the temporary resumption of testing.

Colouring the debate is the administration's propensity towards scaling back America's military ambitions. This was characterised by the decision, announced last week, to scrap the Star Wars programme. 'The Star Wars era is over,' the Defense Secretary, Les Aspin, said, pledging to redirect funding primarily towards missile defence systems for use in regional conflicts, like the Gulf war.

Formally known as the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), the Star Wars programme was meant to lead to the deployment into space of missile interceptors to provide the US with a kind of space-shield against surprise attack. But during ten years of development, at a total cost of dollars 32bn ( pounds 21bn), the system never came close to becoming reality.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions