Pak-China nuke reactor deal set to open fresh rift with US

Last Updated: Fri, Sep 24, 2010 14:21 hrs

Islamabad: China's confirmation of its plans to help Pakistan in expanding its Chashma nuclear energy complex by building two reactors in addition to one already operating and another nearing completion, may open a fresh rift between the United States and China.

Diplomats say that the sale of the reactors to Pakistan is likely to be discussed at the next NSG meeting in November, The Nation reported.

China could bring forward either of the two arguments: that it should receive an exemption from the rule that prevents commerce with states that have not signed the NPT, or that the deal was covered by an agreement with Pakistan, signed before it joined the NSG.

China's foreign ministry spokeswoman implied that Beijing would take the second route, saying that "the project is based on an agreement signed between the two countries in 2003," the paper said.

The renewed push behind the Pakistan deal also reflects China's commercial ambitions to become a big player in the reviving international nuclear industry, by developing economies of scale and expertise that could make them tough competitors.

Meanwhile, a senior Pakistani government official disclosed that China had offered to extend "extremely concessional" financial terms for the nuclear agreement, which, he said, "has made possible what would have simply been impossible for cost reasons".

However, he refused to elaborate the exact terms offered by Beijing, but said; "Our Chinese brothers have left it to us to decide how much time we need to pay back their money. I can also say to you, the interest rates are very soft."

Earlier, a newspaper had reported that China's main nuclear power company was in talks with Pakistan to build a one-gigawatt nuclear power plant.

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