World leaders Saturday condemned China's latest nuclear test and showed no signs of appeasement at Beijing's announcement that it would end all testing after just one more atomic explosion.
"The United States deeply regrets this action," Press Secretary Mike McCurry said in a statement issued by the White House. "We urge China to refrain from further nuclear tests and to join in a global moratorium," he said.The environmental group Greenpeace and angry residents of the atomic-bomb scarred Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki joined in condemnation of a blast that leaves China as the world's only nuclear power still conducting tests.
There was not only concern at what the explosion meant for the strategic situation in the volatile Asian region but also what it might do to the drive to sign a worldwide Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty before the end of this year.
"We are very disappointed as China had stepped toward an early conclusion of a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty. I hope there will be no more tests," Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto told reporters.
"I was sorry to learn of China's latest nuclear weapons test," German Foreign Minister Klaus Kin-kel said in a statement. "It discounts the flexible stance China has shown of late on the issue of peaceful nuclear explosions."
Kinkel described nuclear weapons testing as "a relic of the Cold War era that has now lost any justification."
The blast at the Lop Nor test site in northwestern Xinjiang was recorded at 10:56 a.m. Chinese time (8:56 p.m. MDT Friday) and created a shock that was registered at 5.7 on the Richter scale.
The test was the 44th nuclear explosion at the Lop Nor underground test site since tests started there in 1964, Western records show. China carried out two tests last year.
In announcing the latest test, China said it will conduct another nuclear test before September this year after which it will exercise a moratorium on nuclear testing.
Diplomats said the explosion, two days after Beijing agreed to abandon demands that an international test ban treaty exempt "peaceful" blasts, was part of China's scramble to upgrade its arsenal before the ban takes effect at the end of this year.
The other four declared nuclear powers - the United States, Russia, Britain and France - have all backed the test ban treaty without exception.
Australia, which was in the forefront of condemnation of France last year for its nuclear testing in the Pacific Ocean, described the Chinese action as "insensitive."
"It is particularly regrettable that China continues to test when the negotiations for a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty are at a critical juncture," Australian Prime Minister John Howard said. The deadline for a draft CTBT is June 30.
In Manila, Greenpeace campaigners set sail for Shanghai on a voyage of nuclear protest and said the test only increased their determination to ignore China's efforts to discourage their trip.
The MV Greenpeace, refurbished after being seized by the French military last year near a French nuclear test site, left Manila in the evening, its departure delayed several hours because of a maintenance problem.