Sir: So President Jacques Chirac has ignored the massive opposition in Britain and around the world to French nuclear testing in the South Pacific. The French government is guilty of duplicity over its claim that nuclear tests in the Pacific are aimed at maintaining the "safety" of its existing nuclear stockpile.
When France agreed to extend the non-proliferation treaty, it pledged to exercise "utmost restraint" with regard to nuclear testing and also pledged to help the world to pursue the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.
However the present series of tests is designed to help France to develop a new generation of "smart nukes" specifically suited to combat situations. The new warheads France is hoping to develop are tactical systems equipped with a "stealth" capability not dissimilar to that of the B-1 bomber, and with the ability to burrow deep into the ground.
This is not only provocative in the extreme, it sends dangerous signals to other would-be nuclear powers, and may eventually prompt a new nuclear arms race potentially more dangerous than the Cold War. The long-term environmental and geological dangers of carrying out further tests in this area can only be speculated on.
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