WASHINGTON: The US has said it would vote against an exemption for China to sell two civil nuclear reactors to Pakistan at the Nuclear Suppliers Group meeting, in a new move to step up pressure to get the controversial deal annulled.
Making it clear that the US would oppose the recent decision of China to sell two nuclear reactors to Pakistan, a top Obama administration official told lawmakers that Washington would vote against the Sino-Pak deal when it comes before the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
This is for the first time that such a clear statement has emerged from the Obama Administration, days after the Secretary of State, Ms Hillary Clinton told Pakistan that US would work with it on civil nuclear energy, during her just concluded Islamabad visit.
“Yes sir, by definition, we do not support any activity that goes against the guidelines,” said Mr Vann H Van Diepen, the acting assistant secretary of state for International Security and Non Proliferation, in response to a question from the Congressman, Mr Ed Royce, at a Congressional hearing convened by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Mr Royce, who is co-chair of House India Caucus, had questions about the administration’s stand on the Sino-Pak nuclear deal.
The State Department official said the US would vote against any exemption for China to sell two civil nuclear reactors to Pakistan. The NSG runs by consensus, but its decisions have no legal binding on its members.
When the issue came up before the NSG at its meeting last month in New Zealand, the US had sought more information from Beijing on this issue.
“Based on the facts we are aware of, it would occur to us that this sale would not be allowed to occur without an exemption of the NSG,” Mr Diepen said. Early this week, Ms Clinton had told a group of Pakistani journalists that the US would work with Pakistan on civil nuclear energy.
“In our dialogue with the Pakistani Government, we have clearly said we will work with them on civil nuclear energy,” Ms Clinton told a group of Pakistani journalists in Islamabad on July 19. Pakistan has been demanding a civilian nuclear deal with the US on the lines of that with India.
China has already promised it two additional nuclear reactors, on which the US has sought additional clarifications at the recently held meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
“It took years to do it with India. But we are committed to pursuing it and trying to overcome the obstacles that might stand in the way, because we think it is important to get as much of a varied source of energy all connected to the grid and all being able to prevent the lobe shedding that now is such a difficult problem for people,” Ms Clinton said in Islamabad.
Earlier in his prepared testimony, Mr Diepen again referred to Pakistan’s nuclear non-proliferation record, citing that the A Q Khan network had demonstrated how trans-shipment hubs could be abused to support proliferation of the most sensitive nuclear technology.
It is a good example of why it is important for countries to closely regulate transshipment-related activities, he said.