Understanding U.S. Policy on China-Pakistan Nuclear Deal

Understanding U.S. Policy on China-Pakistan Nuclear Deal

With last month's approval by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of a safeguards plan, China is set to construct the Chasma-3 and Chasma-4 nuclear reactors in Pakistan. By supplying the two new nuclear power plants, however, China will be in direct contravention of its nonproliferation commitments.

Under the 1992 revised guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a global export-control body that China joined in 2004, transfer of nuclear technology and material from a NSG member state can only take place under the provisions of full-scope safeguards. These safeguards require that all nuclear facilities in the state receiving nuclear aid be under IAEA oversight, which precludes transfers to states that are pursuing nuclear programs for military purposes. Since Pakistan has an active military nuclear program, the Sino-Pakistani nuclear deal will be subject only to partial safeguards specific to the nuclear facilities under construction.

Civilian nuclear cooperation between China and Pakistan began in 1999, when China helped Pakistan build the Chasma-1 plant. Even after joining the NSG, China pursued nuclear cooperation with Pakistan by constructing another reactor, called Chasma-2, at the same site. China claimed an exemption for this transaction under the grandfather clause of the NSG guidelines, which allows fulfilment of commitments undertaken by member states before joining the NSG. The Chasma-2 deal, China argued, was negotiated long before it joined the NSG.

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