New atomic test in Asia Pakistan says it exploded last device in series

ready for peace talks

'Weapons configuration'

May 31, 1998|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Pakistan exploded another nuclear test device yesterday, the government announced, spurning worldwide criticism and calls for restraint after its nuclear tests two days ago.

Speaking after a round of tests that have catapulted the impoverished countries of India and Pakistan into declared nuclear powers and raised fears of war, a Pakistani official indicated that nuclear weapons could now be swiftly made ready for use.

"The devices tested conform to weapons configuration, compatible with delivery systems," Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmad said at a news conference.

"We have proved our credibility," he added, and said that the latest test concluded the series.

But he also said that Pakistan is ready to "talk peace" with India and that "it is not our purpose to enter into an arms race."

The Pakistani tests came two weeks after India exploded what it said were five nuclear devices.

A senior Indian official said that India did not view nuclear testing as a competition with Pakistan requiring India to match each move by its archrival.

The United States, which has imposed economic sanctions on both countries, condemned the latest Pakistani test.

Yesterday's test came at 11: 55 a.m. in the same remote Baluchistan region of desert and mountains near the Iranian border where the previous tests were conducted Thursday.

Initial reports said that two devices, each with a force of 18 kilotons -- slightly bigger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima -- had been exploded in reinforced L-shaped tunnels.

But scientists outside India and Pakistan have questioned some ofthe countries' assertions about their tests, and it was not immediately clear what Pakistan had detonated.

Again and again in his remarks, Ahmad, the Foreign Ministry's senior civil servant, referred to India's development of nuclear weapons and the struggle between the countries over the disputed province of Kashmir, which he said was under the "patently illegal occupation of India." India and Pakistan have fought three wars since 1947, two of them over Kashmir.

Ahmad said that Pakistan had developed its nuclear ability "only, only in self-defense and only to deter aggression."

"It is to restore the strategic balance," he said.

Ahmad reiterated his government's assertion that it is willing to negotiate with India. But negotiations, he insisted, must lead to a "peaceful and just" solution to the problem of Kashmir.

The state of Jammu and Kashmir is the only majority Muslim state in predominantly Hindu India and has been the scene of brutal violence between Muslim separatists and Indian security forces. Part of the Kashmir region is held by Pakistan, which has supported separatists in the Indian state.

Yesterday's test was greeted here with jubilation. Crowds have been dancing in the streets of this desperately poor Muslim country since the first announcement that Pakistan had conducted five underground nuclear tests in response to an equal number by India earlier this month.

Indeed, far from bowing to the pressure of international sanctions and the recall of at least four ambassadors, officials here spoke openly of loading the newly developed nuclear warheads onto missiles.

"There is no problem" putting them on missiles, Foreign Minister Gomar Ayub said.

Abdul Qadeer, the chief of Pakistan's nuclear development program and the country's newest hero, agreed.

"If the prime minister asked, it would not be difficult to mount them," Qadeer said. "We can really, really mount them, not in months, not in weeks but in days."

Normally fractious parties across the splintered political spectrum are saluting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for standing up to India, and Islamic prayer services throughout the country were devoted to giving thanks for the country's nuclear ability.

In North-West Frontier Province, mountain tribesmen let loose with the traditional celebratory volleys of gunfire from weapons of all descriptions.

Officeholders, usually enriched here by their public service, were vowing belt tightening to share the economic suffering to come.

The elation reflected the long tensions between India and Pakistan. With a vastly larger population and a military twice the size of Pakistan's -- 1,145,000 to 587,000 -- India has been the dominant force on the subcontinent.

With the victory of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party in the Indian election this year, the tensions have sharpened, and both sides in recent days have been emphatic in linking the nuclear race and the Kashmir issue.

After India's nuclear tests, Indian Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani increased war jitters by speaking out strongly on Kashmir.

Pub Date: 5/31/98

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