Peking takes its last chance to push the button
Blast fall-out: Japan leads international outcry in wake of underground explosion less than two weeks after Hiroshima commemoration
Friday 18 August 1995
Despite the outrage stirred up in the Pacific by its nuclear test yesterday, Western nuclear weapons specialists believe China remains committed to a comprehensive nuclear test ban next year.
Like France, China has decided to take the last opportunity to perform more tests before a total ban comes into force, to demonstrate its ability to build smaller multiple warheads for smaller missiles.
The Chinese underground test took place at the Lop Nor site south east of Urumqi in the Xinjiang autonomous region, at 0100 GMT yesterday. It created a small earthquake, measured at 5.6 on the Richter scale, and the explosion was estimated as equivalent to 60,000 tons of TNT - relatively large by test standards.
With 43 tests, China is catching up with Britain, which has conducted 44. France has conducted 192 tests since 1960. Peking says it has conducted relatively few tests - Britain, after all, had substantial technical help from the US in developing its nuclear weapons.
Last week at the disarmament negotiations in Geneva, France agreed to a comprehensive test ban treaty covering all nuclear explosions - including very small ones, which it had previously asked to be excluded on the grounds they were needed to check the safety of nuclear weapons.
China and France are developing miniaturised nuclear warheads, suitable for fitting to missiles to be launched from submarines. China has been developing submarine-launched ballistic missiles and land-based, solid- fuel ballistic missiles, which are safer to store and quicker to launch.
The latest nuclear tests appear to be connected with the development of smaller, solid-fuel missiles, possibly with multiple warheads. The first solid-fuel missile was tested in the 1980s, and more recently China has introduced the "M" family of mobile, land-based missiles. Two mobile missiles, the Dong Feng ("East Wind") -31 and -41, with ranges of 5,000 miles and 7,500 miles, are also under development.
Multiple warheads would be a logical development, although according to the authoritative Nuclear Weapons Databook, the Chinese may be pursuing these technologies "as much to demonstrate their ability to master them as to gain any tangible security improvement".
- 1 Amber Peat: Body found in search for missing 13-year-old who ran away after argument with her parents
- 2 California man brutally beat 82-year-old Sikh grandfather he mistook for 'one of those people'
- 3 Gay teenager 'forced to have sex with his own mother' to 'cure' his homosexuality, campaigners in India say
- 4 Charles Kennedy 'had better judgement drunk than many sober politicians' says Ian Hislop
- 5 Fifa corruption: Qatar says investigations are racist, anti-Arab and show 'ugly face' of countries who lost 2022 World Cup bid
Amber Peat: Body found in search for missing 13-year-old who ran away after argument with her parents
California man brutally beat 82-year-old Sikh grandfather he mistook for 'one of those people'
Sepp Blatter resigns: FBI are investigating outgoing Fifa president, claims report
Alton Towers crash: Four guests seriously injured as Smiler ride carriages collide
Charles Kennedy dead: A guy once asked the Lib Dem leader who his favourite Muppet was and his letter response was wonderful
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Michael Gove determined to scrap the Human Rights Act – even if Scotland retains it
Threat to scrap Human Rights Act could see UK follow Nazi example, warns UN official
Church of England 'one generation away from extinction' after dramatic loss of followers
Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: Whats the opportunity? A pro-act...
Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: Whats the opportunity? The small...
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fabricator welder required for ...
£14564 - £15311 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Inbound Customer Service Adviso...