Fifty years after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, President Bill Clinton committed the United States Friday to the drive for a worldwide ban on all nuclear tests. He called it "the right step as we continue pulling back from the nuclear precipice."
The president also said he hoped his decision to forgo even small-scale underground tests - despite the concerns of some advisers - would make it easier to persuade other nations to agree to a worldwide test ban being negotiated in Geneva.
"It moves us one step closer to the day when no nuclear weapons are detonated anywhere on the face of the Earth," Clinton said.
His announcement provoked immediate concern from some Republicans.
The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., said, "I remain to be convinced that we can monitor the reliability, safety and accuracy of our nuclear weapons without the ability to test them.
"These weapons are machines and will break down despite the intense scrutiny they undergo," Thurmond said.
And Sen. John Warner, R-Va., also a member of the Armed Services Committee, said it was unfair to members of the armed forces "to hold out the fact that we have an arsenal without making sure that we know it could work."
Similar worries had been raised by some of Clinton's senior advisers, who felt some tests were essential to keep the nuclear stockpile up to date.
The president tried to ease such concerns by promising to exercise "supreme national interest rights" to withdraw from the treaty and conduct tests if the United States loses confidence in the safety of a critical nuclear weapon. …