U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake said an atomic trade deal between China and Pakistan goes against Beijing’s commitments as part of an international nuclear export control group, Asian News International reported on Saturday (see GSN, March 9).
Chinese firms intend to build two new 340-megawatt light-water reactors at Pakistan’s Chashma Nuclear Power Plant, according to previous reports.
“We expect China to abide by the commitments that it made when it joined the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2004, and in particular we think the construction of new nuclear reactors such as the Chashma 3 and 4 would be inconsistent with those commitments,” Blake said. “That remains our longstanding position.”
The 46-nation export control organization has largely sought to limit member nations’ atomic dealings only to those countries that have signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Nuclear-armed Pakistan has not signed the treaty.
China has contended the two new reactors at Chashma should be permitted by the nuclear export group because Chinese involvement at the nuclear site predates the nation’s NSG membership.
While underlining U.S. opposition to the Pakistan-China nuclear deal, Blake said Washington understood “the need to support Pakistan’s energy development.” He said the United States has tried to assist Pakistan to “not only refurbish some of its existing [energy production] capacity to make it more efficient … but to look at new ways to help, again, meet those energy challenges.”
The Obama administration has turned down repeated calls from Islamabad for civilian atomic assistance (seeGSN, March 18).
New Delhi has also voiced strong reservations to the Pakistan-China deal.
Blake, however, said New Delhi had not requested that Washington take a more strident stand against the nuclear deal: “Not beyond what we’ve already talked about which is again, to hold Pakistan to its NSG commitments. I think that’s their principal concern as well.”
The United States joined other members of the International Atomic Energy Agency governing board earlier this month in unanimously voting to approve a plan for monitoring the planned third and fourth reactors at Chashma.
“[Indian officials] also understand that Pakistan has severe energy needs and that this affects internal stability and therefore it’s important for all countries to help … Pakistan to meet its own energy needs and that in turn can help, for example, many businesses get back on their feet and employ more people,” Blake said (Asian News International/Sify.com, March 19).
“What I’d like to emphasize is that it’s very important that on the one hand China observe its NSG obligations, but on the other hand, that the international community do as much as possible to help Pakistan to meet its energy needs. …We think there’s a lot that can be done in non-nuclear areas that help do that,” Blake was quoted by the Press Trust of India as saying.
Blake, the State Department’s point man for South and Central Asian Affairs, said he had not discussed Beijing’s nuclear dealings with Pakistan when he met with Chinese officials last week (K.J.M. Varma, Press Trust of India/Deccan Herald, March 19).