Chinese Deal with Pakistan Hems Obama; Key Countries to U.S. Buck Nuclear Nonproliferation

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Byline: Ashish Kumar Sen, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

China's decision to sell nuclear reactors to Pakistan, which has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), is posing a challenge to the Obama administration's commitment to curb the spread of nuclear technology.

Analysts see in the administration's muted response a reluctance to press China at the risk of losing its support for sanctions on Iran and a hesitation to upset a delicate relationship with Pakistan, which the U.S. views as a key ally in the war against al Qaeda and the Taliban.

According to China National Nuclear Corp., the governments of China and Pakistan in February signed an agreement to finance construction of two reactors in Pakistan's Punjab province. The rules of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) prohibit the sale of sensitive nuclear technology and materials to nations that have not joined the NPT and do not allow international monitoring of their nuclear activities.

Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, said the sale of Chinese reactors to Pakistan would undermine the NSG.

It would be a shame if this administration, which prides itself on reducing nuclear threats, should itself wink at China trading in sensitive nuclear technology to Pakistan outside of the nuclear rules, he said.

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said the China-Pakistan agreement is deeply troubling because we have China engaging in civil nuclear trade with a country that does not meet the requirements of the NSG for such trade.

The U.S. has other diplomatic equities that are at stake with China and Pakistan, but this is a very fundamental issue, and if the Obama administration is serious about nonproliferation, it should be concerned, Mr. Kimball said.

He said the Obama administration should insist at the NSG that these new projects be discussed and deemed unallowable.

Mark Hibbs of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said he doubts the NSG will consider the matter until China informs it of the planned export. In the meantime, NSG states are waiting on the U.S. to take the lead on this issue in advance because Pakistan has raised it with the U.S. in their bilateral security dialogue, he said.

China has helped Pakistan set up nuclear reactors since the early 1990s, when it helped build a 325-megawatt power plant called Chashma 1. …