China, Pakistan mum on whether nuclear energy deals will come up during Zardari visit

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Pakistan president to sign trade deals with China

BEIJING — Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari will sign agreements with China on business and trade during a visit to Beijing that kicked off on Wednesday, according to China’s Foreign Ministry. But both sides were mum on whether they planned to discuss nuclear energy cooperation.

The weeklong visit is Zardari’s fifth since he came to office in September 2008, underscoring the close diplomatic, military and commercial ties between the neighbors.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Zardari would meet Chinese President Hu Jintao on Wednesday and sign agreements in trade, public health and other areas. But the spokesman didn’t answer a question on whether they would sign any deals on nuclear power.

Zardari met Wednesday with Chinese business leaders and pointed out investment opportunities in Pakistan’s ailing energy sector, according to a statement from his spokesman, Farhatullah Babar. Parts of Pakistan see electricity outages of up to 18 hours a day.

The Pakistan president said authorities planned to feed its grid through “hydro, coal, gas, nuclear and renewable energy sources,” but did not elaborate on the growth of nuclear energy.

A spokesman for the Pakistani embassy in Beijing said he did not have details on deals that would be signed.

China agreed in 2008 to build two nuclear power plants for its neighbor, a deal that critics said violated international non-proliferation agreements.

Pakistan, which has leaked sensitive nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea, has not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the main international agreement meant to stem the spread of nuclear weapons technology. China signed the treaty in the 1990s.

So far the deal to build two new reactors at the Chashma site in Pakistan’s Punjab province has apparently gone forward. But the U.S and other countries have said it did not have the necessary approval from the 46-country Nuclear Suppliers Group, which seeks to limit the spread of nuclear-related equipment.

“The United States and other NSG states may object to the pending transaction but they cannot prevent China from exporting the reactors,” Mark Hibbs of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said in an April report.

China has said the deal would be carried out in line with “international obligations” and subject to international safeguards and supervision.

The China-Pakistan deal came about after a wide-ranging agreement that allowed the U.S. to sell nuclear fuel, technology and reactors to India, which like Pakistan is not a signatory to the Nonproliferation Treaty.

China, a major investor and arms supplier for Pakistan, shares Islamabad’s fierce regional rivalry with India.

During his five-day visit to China, Zardari will also meet with Premier Wen Jiabao and top political adviser Jia Qinglin. Zardari was also scheduled to tour the Shanghai World Expo.

July 8, 2010: 10:01 am

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