Nuclear candour with Chinese characteristics

China signals that its nuclear support to Pakistan is about weapons

Mark Hibbs has news on the two new nuclear reactors that China is selling to Pakistan in blatant violation of its non-proliferation commitments:

Chinese officials said last month that export of the reactors to Pakistan would be justified in consideration of political developments in South Asia, including the entry into force of the U.S.–India deal and the NSG exemption for India. Western diplomats said China would not strongly favor an NSG exemption for Pakistan matching India’s because that would not additionally benefit Chinese industry and because Pakistan, compared to India, is a limited nuclear power market with far less infrastructure and far fewer financial resources.

China in 2004 did not claim that more power reactors after Chashma-2 would be “grandfathered” by the prior Sino–Pakistan nuclear accord, and China has argued instead that there are compelling political reasons concerning the stability of South Asia to justify the exports. China will therefore not justify the transactions on the basis of any confidential commercial agreements between China and Pakistan, NSG state representatives said. [CEIP]

As brazen has China’s attitude towards nuclear proliferation continues to be, it is nevertheless good to see Beijing openly reveal why it is abetting Pakistan’s fissile material factory. It’s not about nuclear energy. It’s about nuclear weapons. For if you have “compelling political reasons concerning the stability of South Asia” helping Pakistan build more electricity generation plants is not what you would do.

The incredulous attempt to claim that its new reactor sales are actually part of a deal it signed with Pakistan before accepting NSG obligations appears to have been discarded. China’s brazenness is supposedly due to the fact that the United States needs its support at the United Nations Security Council to place sanctions against Iran.

Mr Hibbs writes that if the United States failed to object to China’s flouting of its obligations it would mean “Obama was prepared to brush off an important nuclear nonproliferation norm on grounds of political expediency.”

In other words, Beijing is counting on President Obama being okay with the certainty of allowing an unstable, adventurous, military-ruled Pakistan to build more nuclear weapons as the price of the possibility of preventing Iran from building one.

4 thoughts on “Nuclear candour with Chinese characteristics”

  1. Mr Hibbs writes that if the United States failed to object to China’s flouting of its obligations it would mean “Obama was prepared to brush off an important nuclear nonproliferation norm on grounds of political expediency.”

    I have to say- that gave me a chuckle. Important nuclear non proliferation norms brushed off on grounds of political expediency !!!!

    Quick, call the cops ! oh wait you mean to say the self appointed cops themselves are the problem ?

    In other words, Beijing is counting on President Obama being okay with the certainty of allowing an unstable, adventurous, military-ruled Pakistan to build more nuclear weapons as the price of the possibility of preventing Iran from building one.
    That makes little sense. Beijing does not need America’s support for openly flouting NPT norms. It can do so based on what it perceives to be its self interest.There is absolutely NOTHING that America can do about this.

    Iran cannot be prevented from building nuclear weapons if it wants to – all these talk of sanctions are never going to work.China knows how to play this game of “trying” to prevent Iran from building nukes all too well -it’s support has been courted since God knows when. And yet Iran is closer to building nukes than ever before….gee, why is that ?

    China would be foolish to rub Iran the wrong way especially when it has a lot of energy interests and business relations in the Persian Gulf.

  2. Energy security also has large national security implications. All states are going to be attempting to install new sources of energy, either nuclear, solar, wind, geothermal or ocean thermal conversion. As oil becomes less abundant and the price increases, we may find that energy sources become conflict triggers.

    On the bright side the International Energy Agency has just released two reports that sees great potential for solar, providing up to a quarter of world electricity by 2050. See

    We all need to start looking for other sources of nuclear energy such as the travelling wave reactor, as nuclear is going to be a necessary component of the energy mix for many years tom come.
    Let us there migrate to technologies with very low proliferation risk

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