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US to vote against China-Pak nuclear deal at NSG

By Lalit K Jha
July 23, 2010 14:29 IST
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The United States has said that it will 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 will oppose the recent decision of China to sell two nuclear reactors to Pakistan, a top Barack Obama administration official told lawmakers that Washington will vote against the China-Pakistan deal at the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

This is the first time that such a clear statement has emerged from the Barack Obama administration, days after Secretary of State 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 Vann H Van Diepen, acting assistant secretary of state for international security and non proliferation, in response to a question from Congressman Ed Royce, at a Congressional hearing convened by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

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 will 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 held in June 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," Diepen said.

Early this week, 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," 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 the one the latter inked 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.

Earlier in his prepared testimony, 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.

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