28 May 1998
(Richardson: international effort must stop arms race) (760) By Judy Aita USIA United Nations Correspondent United Nations -- Calling for a coordinated international effort to stop the arms race in South Asia, US Ambassador Bill Richardson deplored Pakistan's nuclear tests May 28. Speaking with journalists outside the Security Council's meeting rooms, Richardson said that in the days ahead the United States will be consulting with members of the council, especially the other four permanent members who are also nuclear powers -- China, France, Great Britain, and Russia -- and other leaders on how to "join together to stop this arms race." The United States is "concerned about developments in South Asia and we urge restraint on all sides," Richardson said. "We will be seeking appropriate Security Council action. We think there should be a multilateral, multinational response to reduce tensions in South Asia." While he gave no indication of what type of action the US will seek in the Security Council, the ambassador noted that the international community should not accelerate the arms race, but urge both India and Pakistan not to conduct any further tests and immediately enter into talks. Both countries should also sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which has already been signed by 149 nations, he said. "The United States deplores Pakistan's decision to test a nuclear explosive device. This further raises tension in South Asia, undermines the global consensus on nonproliferation. We think Pakistan's test is a huge mistake. We think it's going to raise tensions in South Asia, accelerate an arms race," the ambassador also said. Richardson echoed comments made by other Clinton Administration officials in Washington calling on the governments of India and Pakistan "to not conduct any further tests, to stop increasing tensions in the region ... and to bring stability to a very tense region." The tests came as no surprise to the United States, the ambassador added. "Our intelligence warned us intensively of the nature and timing of the test. The United States made its best effort and intensive effort -- especially on the part of President Clinton -- to persuade the Pakistanis not to test. Regrettably they went the other way." "While we recognize that India tested first and Pakistan was responding, this is no excuse for the test," Richardson said. Meanwhile, Secretary General Kofi Annan issued a statement deploring both the Indian and Pakistani tests and called on both governments to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty as well as a "no-first-use pledge with each other." "Both nations should freeze their nuclear weapons development programs. The number of nuclear weapons should decrease, not increase," Annan said. "As we approach the new century, we should be asking how best to preserve life, culture, and civilization, not how to become more destructive." UN spokesman Fred Eckhard added that Annan has also offered to mediate between the two countries. "The secretary general strongly appealed to both India and Pakistan to make every effort to reduce increasing tensions in the region especially in Kashmir," Eckhard said. "He asks both sides to refrain from mutual accusations which could further inflame the tense situation and urges the two governments to resume their bilateral dialogue. The secretary general also takes this opportunity to recall the availability of his good offices," the spokesman said. The spokesman for General Assembly President Hennadiy Udovenko of Ukraine said the president was "gravely concerned" about Pakistan's nuclear tests. "Today's explosions have dealt a serious blow to global non-proliferation efforts as they flew in the face of the international community that had overwhelmingly deplored a similar exercise earlier this month by India and had urged restraint by the two countries," said assembly spokesman Alex Taukatch. "A number of positive developments in the field of nuclear disarmament over the past years have given hope that humanity would enter the new millennium leaving behind the legacy of an unbridled nuclear arms race," the spokesman said. "The latest series of tests in South Asia threaten to dash those hopes and to further escalate tensions in an already volatile region." Security Council President Njuguna Mahugu of Kenya said the council is working on a formal reaction in the form of a presidential statement late in the day. During a private meeting before noon May 28, council members "strongly deplored the [two] underground nuclear tests conducted by Pakistan despite the international call for restraint. They called upon Pakistan and India to stop all nuclear testing and related activities immediately," Mahugu said.