Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

French Set off a Second Explosion

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

French Set off a Second Explosion

Article excerpt

Ignoring international protests, France detonated today its second nuclear bomb in a month in the South Pacific - hours after seizing the last Greenpeace protest ship near the test site.

The French Defense Ministry said the underground test on Fangataufa Atoll measured "less than 110 kilotons," and was detonated underground at 12:30 a.m. Paris time today, (6:30 p.m. St. Louis time Sunday).

By comparison, France's first test on Mururoa Atoll on Sept. 5 was 20 kilotons, or slightly larger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945.

The first test drew worldwide protest and prompted 1 1/2 days of rioting in Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia and the staging area for both the nuclear tests and protesters.

There was no immediate unrest in Papeete after Sunday's test. France has flown 780 more riot police into Papeete in recent days, and the officers have become much more visible on the streets and at the airport.

President Jacques Chirac announced the series of up to eight tests this summer, saying they would be finished by the end of May. The tests ended a three-year freeze that all the declared nuclear powers but China had honored.

Chirac argues that the tests are needed to modernize France's nuclear arsenal and develop computer test simulation, while critics say the blasts could encourage others to resume testing.

In response to today's test:

The environmental group Greenpeace called it "an enormous affront" to the people of the South Pacific. "People have the right to feel extremely insulted by the activity of the French government," said Lynette Thorstensen, Greenpeace spokeswoman in Papeete.

Japan's Foreign Minister Yohei Kono will summon French ambassador Jean-Bernard Ouvrieu later today to express deep regret. "This is extremely regrettable," said Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama.

New Zealand said it was outraged and frustrated. Prime Minister Jim Bolger said France risked losing its status as a dialogue partner of the 16-nation South Pacific forum.

Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating said the test compounded the region's sense of anger at the first test and further damaged France's good name. …

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