President Francois Mitterrand said Sunday that France has no enemies in the South Pacific and added that he would invite regional leaders to France’s Mururoa Atoll nuclear test site.
Mitterrand, planning an address on French television to review his controversial visit to the Pacific test site last week, said the tests were completely safe.
But New Zealand Prime Minister David Lange called Mitterrand’s trip obscene and said France could only be classed as an enemy because of its determination to continue nuclear testing.
Mitterrand, reading a brief statement, said he will propose a plan for civilian research with other countries in the South Pacific. He stressed, however, that France will continue testing nuclear devices and expects to have its sovereign rights in the region respected.
Asked about Lange’s statement that France and New Zealand are enemies, Mitterrand said there was no need for such harsh language and added, “He is mistaken.”
Mitterrand’s whirlwind visit to the Mururoa Atoll has aggravated relations already soured by allegations of French involvement in the sinking of a protest ship, the Rainbow Warrior, owned by the Greenpeace environmental group.
Mitterrand on Sunday condemned the July 10 sinking, in which one crewman was killed, as “criminal and absurd.”
In a comment on national television, Lange said that New Zealand and France must be classed as enemies because of Mitterrand’s statement that those who challenge France’s right to test nuclear devices in French Polynesia are the enemies of France. Lange labeled the French leader’s trip to Mururoa Atoll “an obscene gesture” and added that he seems to be building up nationalistic hysteria in France to bolster his political position.
He added: “New Zealand did not buy into this fight. France put agents into New Zealand, France put spies into New Zealand, France lets bombs off in the Pacific, France puts its president in the Pacific to crow about it.”