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Governments Condemn Today's Chinese Nuclear Test

Beijing, July 29 (RFE/RL) -- Foreign governments are criticizing today's underground nuclear test in China.

Foreign Ministry officials in South Korea and Australia expressed "deep regret" at news of the blast. New Zealand's Prime Minister Jim Bolger condemned the explosion and said he hopes it will be the world's last nuclear test. Japanese Foreign Minister Yukihido Ikeda formally protested today's test to a Chinese envoy.

Russia today expressed disappointment at the latest Chinese nuclear test. But a foreign ministry spokesman quoted by Itar-tass news agency also welcomed Beijing's announcement of a moratorium.

The reaction followed a Chinese government statement announcing it had conducted the test today. The statement also said that China will observe a moratorium on nuclear testing effective tomorrow.

The Australian Seismology Center estimates that the blast was between one and five kilotons, and says the resulting shock wave registered 4.3 on the Richter scale.

The news of the test came just prior to the resumption later today of international negotiations in Geneva on a global test ban treaty.

Negotiators are trying to reach agreement on a permanent ban on all nuclear testing, a step which China says it will support. Russia and the United States also back the initiative.

The Indian government is believed the main stumbling block. Dehli says it will only back a test ban if the agreement also sets a timetable for the elimination of all existing nuclear weapons.