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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Officials Pin Hope On Draft Test Ban

GENEVA -- The top U.S. disarmament official appealed Thursday to the 61-nation Conference on Disarmament to adopt a compromise global ban on nuclear test explosions because "we will never do better.''


The head of the Chinese delegation, however, said changes were needed because the compromise held out the prospect of "inspectors coming and going like international tourists.''


Acknowledging concerns of China and other holdouts, India and Pakistan, John Holum said, "It still comes down to a choice between this treaty and no treaty at all.''


Trying to change a compromise text would only shatter a four-decade dream of prohibiting nuclear explosions worldwide, said Holum, director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.


"We could spend more days, more months, more years searching for the perfect treaty, but we will never do better,'' he said.


Chinese Ambassador Sha Zukang offered to split the difference with the United States on the ways inspections are authorized, but Holum rejected the suggestion.


The compromise already has split the difference, like other disputes, "with almost mathematical precision,'' said Holum.


Under the compromise, 26 members of a 51-nation executive council could authorize inspectors to go to suspected test site if they believe a country has violated the treaty.


China, which had been holding out for requiring a two-thirds majority vote, or 34 members, is now willing to drop that to 30 "yes'' votes, said Sha.


But Holum, who has been holding a series of talks with the Chinese and other delegations in hopes of ending opposition to the compromise, opposed any changes to the compromise.


Altering the treaty for one country would mean opening it up to other changes and "cause an unraveling'' of what has been achieved so far.


China's nuclear test conducted only last Monday -- which China said would be its last -- was deplored by a number of countries at Thursday's session, including Japan, New Zealand and Australia.


Indian Ambassador Arundhati Ghose has said India is keen to have an effective treaty to ban nuclear tests, especially since the idea was first put forward in 1954 by Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.


Ghose didn't speak to the conference Thursday, but Wednesday Foreign Minister Inder Kumar Gujral reiterated the country's opposition to the compromise text.


India particularly wants a commitment from the declared nuclear powers to eliminate their arsenals over time.


India, whose 1974 "peaceful'' test of a nuclear device convinced the world that the country could develop atomic weapons, finds itself between archrival Pakistan, also regarded as a "threshold'' nuclear power, and China, which has missiles aimed at India.


India has been at war with each country in recent decades.


Pakistan, which has said it won't sign if India doesn't and supports China in some of its objections, said it couldn't be expected to accept the compromise text without change.