Chirac under fire over nuclear tests


BANGKOK, Thailand -- With France only weeks from resuming nuclear testing, Japan is threatening an economic boycott that could harm the French economy.

The Japanese government has bitterly criticized the decision by President Jacques Chirac to resume nuclear testing in French Polynesia this fall after a three-year moratorium. Mr. Chirac says his decision is irrevocable.

The week before last, 47 Japanese lawmakers, many of them prominent members of parties in the coalition government, called for a boycott of French luxury goods, a threat that carries weight, given the affection of millions of Japanese consumers for brand-name French fashion, perfumes and liquor.

Mr. Chirac announced in June, shortly after his election, that France would carry out eight underground explosions in two tiny Polynesian atolls -- Mururoa and Fangatauta -- from September through May. After that, he has promised, France will sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and end nuclear testing forever.

The French government has said that it needs to carry out the tests to check the reliability and safety of its existing nuclear arsenal.

But that has not satisfied foreign leaders and environmental campaigners who say computer simulations would offer much the same information.

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