Chinese President Jiang Zemin on Wednesday ruled out a resumption of nuclear testing by Beijing, a Chinese government source said.
"China has no intention of resuming nuclear testing," the source, who declined to be identified, quoted Jiang as saying in an exclusive interview with a foreign news organization.No further details were immediately available.
Comments by a senior Chinese Foreign Ministry official on Monday had raised questions about China's position on testing following blasts by India and Pakistan last month.
The Foreign Ministry official had been asked at a news briefing whether China might resume its own testing program, which it agreed to halt in 1996 by signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
"I cannot respond to your question directly," said the foreign ministry official, who also declined to be identified.
The official noted a provision in the CTBT that allowed signatories to opt out if they believed their "supreme national interests" were threatened.
"I'm not indicating China will do this," he said. "But let me tell you honestly we have to take into account this development.
"I'm not frightening anyone," he added.
The foreign ministry official also said Beijing was "damned serious" about making the CTBT work.
"China is very careful about what it says. What we say is what we mean," the official said.
Neither India nor Pakistan has signed the CTBT, which prohibits un-derground nuclear testing.
China is alarmed that a nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan could spread further and threaten its security.
It has gone out of its way to stress cooperation with the United States over the crisis in South Asia ahead of a summit this month in Bei-jing between Jiang and U.S. President Bill Clinton.
The official Chinese media revealed that Clinton and Jiang discussed the nuclear crisis during their first use of a newly installed telephone "hotline."
One Western diplomat said he did not believe China ever intended to give the impression it was ready to resume nuclear test-ing.
But China would not stick by the CTBT indefinitely if India and Pakistan continued tit-for-tat testing and other countries joined them, he said.
"If the CTBT becomes unstable, China would be the first off," the diplomat said. "If others start testing, they would back out."
India enraged China by citing a threat from its giant neighbor to justify its atomic explosions, and diplomats said China was anxious to rally support for a hard line against New Delhi.
Beijing has made clear it expects New Delhi to make the first move to repair the damage to relations.
China detonated its last nuclear device in 1996, shortly before joining the CTBT.
On Thursday China will host a meeting of foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council to try to formulate a response to the nuclear crisis.
One outcome of the Geneva meeting may be pressure on Pakistan and India to join the CTBT.