Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Nuclear Deal Tightens US-China Ties Jiang-Clinton Talks Yesterday Yield a Nuclear Export Pact. US Cites Cooperation

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Nuclear Deal Tightens US-China Ties Jiang-Clinton Talks Yesterday Yield a Nuclear Export Pact. US Cites Cooperation

Article excerpt

In an 11th-hour bid to demonstrate progress at the first US-China summit in a dozen years, President Clinton yesterday approved a controversial nuclear cooperation accord with China - an agreement designed to curb nuclear proliferation by Beijing and grant US nuclear firms access to the multibillion-dollar Chinese market.

For both Mr. Clinton and Chinese President Jiang Zemin, the nuclear agreement highlights the broader diplomatic goals of the summit: Beijing's eagerness to break out of the post-Tiananmen isolation and form a strategic partnership with the United States, and Washington's desire to ensure that China emerges as a responsible world power.

As the centerpiece of the White House summit, the nuclear pact is touted by administration officials as proof that the United States policy of "engagement" with China is working to bring about a new, more cooperative relationship, despite years of acrimony over issues such as Taiwan, trade, weapons proliferation, and human rights. Outside the Oval Office, however, hundreds of vocal demonstrators reminded both Jiang and Clinton that many Americans remain deeply concerned by the human rights abuses of China's Communist regime, which crushed pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in June 1989. Meanwhile, Clinton's decision to certify China for US nuclear exports was attacked by nonproliferation experts and some members of Congress as dangerously premature. Congress's okay Citing China's poor track record on nuclear proliferation, they predicted the accord would face intense scrutiny on Capitol Hill. Congress now has 30 legislative days to debate the agreement. "We have a right to view Chinese assurances {on nonproliferation} with great skepticism," says Thomas McNaugher, an expert on Asian security issues at the Rand think tank in Washington. "I am very nervous about the summit driving this to a hasty conclusion." The agreement underscores the powerful role US commercial interests play in driving US-China ties. The struggling US nuclear industry lobbied hard for the administration to lift barriers on its involvement in China's nuclear energy program. US firms have long considered China to be the world's last big market for nuclear reactors and technology, with potential sales estimated at $50 billion. In order to pave the way for the first export of advanced US nuclear reactor technology to China under a 1985 US-China Nuclear Cooperation Agreement - which was signed but never implemented - Clinton had to certify that China is not helping countries acquire nuclear weapons. To meet this requirement, administration officials say they successfully lobbied Beijing over the past two years to secure commitments aimed at ensuring China can and will halt its proliferation activities. China "has made a great deal of progress," says one State Department official, linking improved nonproliferation behavior to "a changing Chinese perspective on the role they want to play in the world. …

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