WASHINGTON – China and Pakistan reached a formal agreement last month to construct a third nuclear reactor at Chashma that the Obama administration says will violate Beijing’s promises under an international anti-nuclear weapons accord, reported Fox News and Washington Times on Friday.
According to US intelligence and diplomatic officials, the secret agreement for the Chashma 3 reactor was signed in Beijing during the visit by a delegation from the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission from Feb 15 to 18.
The agreement calls for the state-run China National Nuclear Corp. to construct a 1,000-megawatt power plant at Chashma, located in Punjab, where two earlier Chinese reactors were built. China’s government last month issued an internal notice to officials within its nuclear establishment and to regional political leaders urging care to avoid any leaks of information about the nuclear sale that Beijing expects will be controversial, officials told the Washington Free Beacon, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The reactor deal had been in the works for several years and prompted high-level US government efforts to block the sale because of concerns it will boost Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme. The Washington Times claimed in a report on Friday that additionally, recent US intelligence reports indicate that China is in the process of modernising Islamabad’s nuclear arsenal, which is estimated to contain as many as 110 warheads. The arms cooperation is said to include development of a new warhead for Pakistan’s growing missile arsenal as well as assistance in reprocessing spent nuclear fuel.
A Congressional Research Service report published Feb 13 stated, “Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal probably consists of approximately 90-110 nuclear warheads, although it could be larger.”
The Obama administration has not publicly contested the nuclear cooperation between the two countries in the past to avoid upsetting US covert efforts against terrorism in the region.
The Beijing-Islamabad nuclear cooperation also has been limited as a result of US efforts to win Chinese support for sanctions on Iran for its illicit nuclear program.
Two US officials confirmed that the Chashma reactor deal was finally reached.
A State Department official declined to provide details of the sale but said it is not permitted under the US understanding of China’s admission to the nuclear group. That understanding is that China would not sell additional reactors to Pakistan’s Chashma complex.
Courtesy: The Nation Pakistan