Letter: Perils of nuclear proliferation

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Sir: On Monday morning, the three signatories of this letter met senior officials at the Chinese Embassy in London and urged them to impress upon their government how deplorable a Chinese decision to break the de facto moratorium on nuclear testing would be. In the early hours of Tuesday, the anticipated Chinese underground test took place.

It is true that the Chinese have been the most restrained of the nuclear powers, have conducted the fewest number of tests and have always maintained that they would never be the first to use nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, their latest test will encourage the hawks in nuclear and threshold nuclear states. Worse, it puts in jeopardy the success of the coming 1995 review conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

We urge the Chinese to conduct no more tests, and the Americans, French and Russians to hold to the current moratorium, despite what has happened. The non-independence of the British deterrent is all too clear. The British can only test with US permission if such tests would be in US interests. We ask President Clinton to refuse such permission.

The Non-Proliferation Treaty is not a minimum deterrence treaty. It is one that commits its signatories, who now include China, to negotiate effective measures leading 'to nuclear disarmament'. Nuclear tests are measures that move in exactly the opposite direction.

Yours faithfully,

FRANK BLACKABY, President, Test Ban Coalition; BRUCE KENT, Vice- President, CND; LESLEY MORRISON, Vice-Chair, Medical Action for Global Security

London, N7

5 October