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Newly-elected French President Jacques Chirac made his first trip abroad-- a pilgrimage to the White House to meet with President Clinton -- amid worldwide controversy over his decision to resume nuclear testing in the South Pacific. Tuesday, the conservative Chirac said France would detonate eight nuclear devices underground on a Polynesian testing site, in order to gather data for the modernization of the nation's nuclear arsenal, the world's third largest. An international test ban comes into force at the end of 1996. Clinton, who frowned on a similar test by China this month, merely expressed disappointment at Chirac's plans. But TIME Paris reporter Bruce Crumley says nations near the atoll where the devices will be detonated, notably Australia and New Zealand, are already moving to break military ties with France. "The French are saying it's 100 percent environmentally safe," Crumley says. "But as a member of the New Zealand's parliament said, 'If the tests are so safe, then let France conduct them at home.'"