VIENNA: A senior US official suggested on Wednesday the 46-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) should address Chinese plans to build two new reactors in Pakistan, one of the few countries outside a global anti-nuclear weapons pact.
The comments by Thomas D’Agostino, US Under Secretary for Nuclear Security, came a day after China indicated it may see no need to seek approval from the NSG, some of whose members have voiced qualms about the plan to build two new reactors at Pakistan’s Chasma nuclear energy complex.
China joined the 35-year-old NSG, which seeks to ensure nuclear exports are not diverted for military purposes, in 2004.
On Tuesday, Beijing gave its firmest government confirmation yet of plans to build the two new reactors for nuclear-armed Pakistan, saying it was based on a contract in 2003, shortly before it joined the NSG.
The expansion of China’s nuclear ties with Pakistan has ruffled Washington, Delhi and other capitals worried about Pakistan’s history of spreading nuclear weapons technology covertly, its domestic instability, and the potential exceptions created in international non-proliferation regulations.
To receive nuclear exports, all nations except the five officially recognised atomic weapons states must usually place all nuclear sites under safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog, NSG rules say.
When the United States sealed its nuclear supply accord with India in 2008, it won a waiver from such NSG rules after contentious talks in which China and some other group members raised misgivings, since New Delhi is outside the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has a nuclear arsenal.
Pakistan has also shunned the NPT.
Washington and other governments have said China should at least seek a similar waiver for the Pakistan deal.
Asked about the Pakistani reactor plans, D’Agostino told reporters during an IAEA meeting in Vienna he did not want to comment on specifics, but added: “We look to engage with China on these particular issues… my focus is to use the framework of the mechanisms that we have in the Nuclear Suppliers Group…
“We are going to use the Nuclear Suppliers Group to the best of our abilities and use all of the tools that we have in that forum to address specific nuclear arrangements that are made, whether it is with China, Pakistan or a variety of other countries…,” D’Agostino said.
Israel and North Korea are the only other countries outside the 40-year-old Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Asked whether the planned reactors should be under the supervision of the IAEA, D’Agostino said: “I believe in the end that all reactors involved in civil uses should be under IAEA safeguards…”
China’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday Beijing had invited the IAEA to “exercise safeguards and oversight of this project.”
But a diplomat familiar with IAEA procedures suggested it was up to Pakistan, not China, to ask it to get involved. – Reuters