Five `Club' Members to Confer on South Asia

By Strobel, Warren P. | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 30, 1998 | Go to article overview

Five `Club' Members to Confer on South Asia


Strobel, Warren P., The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


The United States announced plans yesterday for a five-power conference to try to reverse the nuclear arms race in South Asia, as the Clinton administration's response to nuclear tests by India and Pakistan began taking shape.

The proposed conference would involve the foreign ministers of the United States, China, Russia, Britain and France, the five declared nuclear powers who have been rattled by the sudden addition to their ranks of two bitter enemies.

U.S. officials described the meeting's agenda only in the broadest terms, saying they were still trying to secure agreement on the venue and the agenda. And they acknowledged that events this month have shown how limited outside influence can be in the region.

"This is the beginning of a long and complicated process," said State Department spokesman James P. Rubin.

He said the meeting, expected to take place next week, would try to forge a coordinated international response and get India and Pakistan to reverse their escalation, forswearing further nuclear tests or any move to deploy nuclear weapons.

Despite calls for restraint, U.S. officials said there are indications that Pakistan may conduct more underground tests within days.

Pakistan's leading nuclear scientist, meanwhile, said all five bombs tested Thursday were boosted-fission devices, not those of the more sophisticated thermonuclear fusion design. But Abdul Qadeer Khan, in an interview published today in the News, a Pakistani daily, stressed, "We are doing research and can do a fusion test if asked."

The U.N. Security Council yesterday issued a statement deploring Pakistan's underground nuclear tests and urging both Islamabad and New Delhi to renounce further testing.

The statement's language had largely been agreed by Thursday night, but action had to be put off while the Chinese delegation first checked with leaders in Beijing for final approval.

The Security Council's five permanent member nations are the same nations invited to meet at the U.S.-proposed conference.

U.S. officials welcomed the council's statement, saying it underscores the gravity of the situation.

"The reason that it's important, it's the major powers of the U.N. Security Council speaking united, unmistakably, with a strong message that what is happening in South Asia is unacceptable," said Bill Richardson, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

But it will be more difficult to fashion more than a rhetorical international response to the nuclear tests by India two weeks ago and now by Pakistan.

World leaders refused to join President Clinton earlier this month in imposing sanctions on India after its test. Yesterday, Russia was among those that reiterated that sanctions are the wrong approach. …

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