James ActonChina Pakistan Nuclear Deal

Surprise, surprise.

China has announced its intention to sell more nuclear power plants to Pakistan. Kyodo News reports:

China has agreed to supply Pakistan with two additional nuclear power plants, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said here Saturday after President Asif Zardari’s just-ended visit to Beijing.

Qureshi told a press conference that the two sides signed an agreement under which China will supply two additional reactors at Chashma, in the Mianwali district of Punjab Province, about 200 kilometers southwest of Islamabad.

Pakistan already has one Chinese-built 325-megawatt nuclear power plant in operation there, while work is under way, with Chinese help, on a second power plant at the same site.

The planned third and fourth reactors, known as C-3 and C-4, are estimated to cost $1.7 billion, with a foreign loan component of $1.07 billion.

But, I hear you cry, doesn’t the Nuclear Suppliers Group ban members, including China, from selling to states that aren’t party to the NPT (except when it doesn’t)?

…Pakistani Foreign Ministry officials said China can supply additional power plants to Pakistan without approval from the Vienna-based NSG, on the grounds that China has already supplied two nuclear power reactors to Pakistan without its approval.

Of course, he ignores the fact that these plants were “grandfathered” when China joined the NSG. But, realistically, all the NSG has at its disposal to enforce its rules is the restraint of its member states. If China does sell the plants to Pakistan what’s the NSG going to do? Write China a very strongly worded letter? Expel it? Because that’d be really effective.

Bush Administration officials have, of course, repeated ad nauseam that the India exemption was a one-off and that Pakistan is a totally different case. But, if they haven’t realized it already China doesn’t share their world view much of the time. They may yet succeed in talking China out of this sale (although I’m not holding my breath), but it’s hard to imagine China announcing this agreement had the US-India deal not happened.


  1. Allen Thomson

    How/by whom is the fuel cycle for those reactors going to be managed? Will the Chinese do it all, Pakistan, some combination??

  2. Andreas Persbo

    I cannot believe that you managed to get “a strongly worded letter” into a post about China. Aren’t you suppose to save that for DPRK/IAEA related stuff?

  3. MT (History)

    China has been and was the proliferator. All the nuke problems in Pakistan, North Korea , Iran and Syria are thanks to a chinese proliferation. For its strategic interests china will do it, international community or NSG or IAEA can hardly do anything and look like handicapped.

    This is the reason India never signed NPT. World should thank India for the eye opener, as they were blind with a working eye in their skull.

  4. FK

    To MT:
    before you make your accusation, do your research first. China has been observing its commitment ever since it made it. If all we trace back the record, who is better than whom?

  5. Smith (History)

    The nuclear problems in Pakistan are thanks to China? And to think I believed A.Q. Khan to be a Pakistani. Foolish me!

  6. Wakeymugs (History)

    This has come as no surprise. From July 2005 to date one could imagine the Chinese leadership chuckling at their good fortune. All they wanted was for the NSG approval to The Indo US Deal, whose own nuclear infrastructure was sufficiently advanced, to give Beijing an indisputable cover to clear all past present and future proclivities to proliferate nuclear know how and materials. Washington has successively axed its own nuclear proliferation policies and sanctified China’s proliferation activities. Well done George you have succeeded in all your disastrous policy initiatives whether they be in the economic, political or military spheres. Quite a legacy which should have many on the North American landmass squirming for a long time. If she were alive, Madame’ De Farge would say “Viva la nuclear proliferation!

  7. MT (History)

    To FK and Wakeymugs :

    Please explain how has china made its commitment? Do you mean that otherwise, china would have made lots of muke deals with many countries for its strategic interest? ( which would have been a great thing you seem to believe ) China is a NPT signatory, yet works with pakistan, which by NSG protocol should not. On the other hand, in India’s case, US took NSG approval before planning to work with India and did not unilaterally eased nuclear trade restrictions ( blame it for a huge market or whatever) Not only US, all major nuclear powers, endorsed it, except some petty states who wanted to grab some limelight. I agree that we are here to discuss total disarmament, but your observation about who is better than whom is incorrect.

    On the whole we dont want any new nation with nuke weapons and better that there is no nuke at all. But theory and pratice are different things, so this will take some time, if it were to happen, but I doubt.

  8. Major Lemon (History)

    I hope I’m wrong but one feels anything nuclear in Pakistan will eventually end up in the hands of A.Q.

  9. FK

    To MT:
    I suspect you have read much articles, documents related with this topic.
    Just to list some facts:In cold war ear, China was embargoed by western countries since 1949;China was threatened by nuclear weapons several times;China was at the receiving end of those export control regimes;China clearly indicated that it would not observe any treaties, regimes in which it did not participate the negotiation;though China rhetorically indicated that more nuclear weapons states would be better, China was quite serious in nuclear nonproliferation.To be frank, while China was the target of those multilateral export control regimes, and when China was threatened by nuclear weapon states, there was no necessity for China to observe them.
    When the cold war ended, China’s security environment was getting better, China signed NPT in 1992. Ever since then, China canceled several contracts for peaceful use of nuclear energy, even though those contracts did not violate any international treaties. China was, is strengthening its export control regimes.

    To list other facts:
    India got reactors and heavy water from Canada and US, and it detonated a nuclear device;lots of South African scientists were trained by US; A.Q.Khan got most of nuclear know how from European countries.

    In your comments, you said: “ All the nuke problems in Pakistan, North Korea , Iran and Syria are thanks to a chinese proliferation. “ Would you pls. provide your proof for these accusations?

    We do not live in a perfect world, therefore we should be realistic. When China is making its efforts to better its export control system, those ideology driven guys still love its finger point approach when talking about China. While wearing a morality mask, some countries are moral cowardice.

  10. Arch (History)

    More power (pun intended) to the Paks, IMO. They need the electricity, not the plutonium to make more bombs. These reactors are PWRs and will be safeguarded. I respect their views, but just have to disagree with the eminent posters and guardians of this blog that this deal, or the US-India deal, represent some huge increase in proliferation risk. That these actions undermine the principles of the NPT and its derivative organizations like the NSG cannot be denied, but they represent an accomodation to the real world that is necessary: somehow, there has to be a way to deal with the outliers without fundamentally undermining the increasingly-outdated bargain that is the NPT. More interesting to me is the question of how to deal with breakout possibilities – Iran? Japan? Saudis? Turks?, etc. (The official line of the DPRK is that they withdrew, the legal interpretation of which is open to questions involving clocks, time zones and maybe which calendar you use, and is largely a fruitless exercise.)

    The NPT is not in shreds: it continues to make sense for the vast majority of NNWS. Unfortunately, it can’t be amended because of the politics of the moment, and is under challenge from the outliers and suppliers (China, Germany, Switzerland, most prominently) who find it convenient to shirk their NPT responsibilities when money is present. It does need to be supplemented by auxiliary arrangements like the NSG – and its India waiver – in order to patch the faults that arose because of the passage of time and changed circumstances. In the long run, of course, only Article 6 can save it, which is why I find the minimum deterrence concept so fascinating in this time. Why is minimum deterrence the considered and lauded choice of China, but the same judgements don’t apply to Pakistan, India or Israel (none of whose policies I support, but can certainly understand)?

  11. MT (History)

    To Arch :

    You said ->

    Why is minimum deterrence the considered and lauded choice of China, but the same judgements don’t apply to Pakistan, India or Israel (none of whose policies I support, but can certainly understand)? “

    What are the numbers? Are you sure, china has not increased its stockpile? whats was the method used to count this?

    Do you want to say that the chinese govt. or the communist party says:

    Look we have x number of stockpiles, which we think is minimum deterrence. We are not hiding anything. we have not secrect processsing facilities. What we have is all open.

    And you want everyone to believe this?

    Does Article 6 of NTP says, for X country, minimum deterrence is this and for Y country minimum deterrence is that ?

  12. MT (History)

    To — FK,

    I do read quite a bit, before commenting, but anyway, please go through the following article about the chinese proliferation to pakistan:


    And to your question about :

    In your comments, you said: “ All the nuke problems in Pakistan, North Korea , Iran and Syria are thanks to a chinese proliferation. “ Would you pls. provide your proof for these accusations?

    china proliferated to pakistan and the it went to North Korea down the chain.
    October 2002 it emerged that DPRK had been working clandestinely to enrich uranium for weapons use, using centrifuge equipment. There appeared to be some linkage to Pakistan’s centrifuge program and in 2005 Pakistan confirmed that it had supplied centrifuges to DPRK.

    Read these for more details:



    to learn the chain.

    China -> pakistan
    A.Q khan ( and his network which should include ISI, pakistan army in particular or others)

    proliferated in exchange hundreds of millions.

    From about 2001 to 2007 Syria constructed a graphite-moderated gas-cooled nuclear reactor at a remote site on the Euphrates River, near Al Kibar. It was very similar to the plutonium production reactor at Yongbyon in North Korea. This means :
    pakistan to NK and then to Syria

    Syria and Iran has strong relations, including sensitive technologies

    Evidently Libya’s nuclear enrichment program was at an early stage and no industrial-scale facility had been built, nor any enriched uranium produced. Pakistan, which is not a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, is reported to have been the source of the illicit technology.

  13. kme

    MT, those centrifuge designs are of URENCO, not Chinese origin.

  14. FK

    To MT:

    Wow, you did quite a lot of homework. Thanks for providing those links,though I am quite familiar with those documents you mentioned. After reading your comments, I strongly recommend you to read further, and read more. There is still a long way to go,for YOU. 🙂

    If you were in Assistant Secretary Hill’s team, that would be wonderful. Your presence will make the verification issue much much easier.

    By the way, your logic is really interesting. I hope you could further improve it.

    Enjoy reading

  15. Sek (History)


    Sorry but you don’t make any sense. There is a suspicion that Pakistan has cooperated with the DPRK in uranium enrichement. The alleged cooperation between DPRK and Syria is in the field of a plutonium producing nuclear plant. Ergo, the link that you alleged is simply non-existent. I am not even speaking of the fact that the Pakistani uranium capacities have nothing to see with China.

  16. Sek (History)


    Sorry but you don’t make any sense. There is a suspicion that Pakistan has cooperated with the DPRK in uranium enrichement. The alleged cooperation between DPRK and Syria is in the field of a plutonium producing nuclear plant. Ergo, the link that you alleged is simply non-existent. I am not even speaking of the fact that the Pakistani uranium capacities have nothing to see with China.

  17. Gioa Sempre (History)

    This deal is not the beginning of a tit for tat race. It is in fact the coda of a failed policy. China transferred nuclear weapons designs and materials to Pakistan after its 1971 dismemberment to right the balance in South Asia. Again after the 1998 Indian tests it shipped an entire solid-fuel ballistic missile factory to Fatehgunj in its second attempt to restore parity. However, it did not count on 9/11, A Q Khan and Pakistan’s propensity for shooting itself in the foot nor did it count on India’s economic and diplomatic success in de-hyphenating itself from its Western neighbor. This deal for great grandfathering two more reactors is what in soccer is called a Hail Mary pass; a desperate attempt to resurrect a failed policy. I also don’t see the reactors coming up any time soon. Where’s the Separation Plan, where are Pakistan’s reciprocal commitments and where is the IAEA and NSG backing? This agreement is more of an attempt to mollify ruffled feathers in Pakistan and in the PLA by showing that the ‘imbalance’ has been righted. Don’t get taken in by the fluff. Watch the news space on the rebuffed attempt to get China and Saudi Arabia to cough up a few billions for the real stuff. And Manmohan Singh flying into Beijing from Tokyo for his first ASEM Summit with the security agreement with Japan and the 123 agreement with the US in his pocket. The Chinese, masters of power play, understand the changed circumstances but you can’t expect them to shout this from the roof tops.

  18. FK

    Some comments made by some people are making this thread less serious.

  19. Balachandran (History)

    presumably when China joined the NSG, the members would have asked China about the “grandfather” committments it is going to invoke in future- which countries, what items, how many items etc. does anyone with any contact with NSG can ythorw some light on nthe answers that China gave? Otherwise China can claim it has grandfather agreements with any number of countries and for any number of times.
    Any info from armscontrolwonk chaps would be useful

  20. Lao Tao Ren (History)

    Pakistan went to China for $4b in lieu of an IMF loan.

    They got turned down, flat.

    That says someting.

  21. Lao Tao Ren (History)

    There may be issues on the horizon that can overshadow regional security concerns…. or become a regional security issue real quick.

    I am somewhat astonished at how the world being remade is not registering much here.


    World ‘has six days to save Pakistan’

    By Farhan Bokhari in Islamabad and Chris Bryant in Berlin

    Published: October 28 2008 11:52 | Last updated: October 28 2008 11:52

    Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s foreign minister, warned on Tuesday that the world had less than a week to prevent a full-blown financial crisis in Pakistan, as Islamabad said it expected to strike a preliminary agreement with the International Monetary Fund in a day or two.

    Speaking in Islamabad, Mr Steinmeier called on the IMF to save the nuclear-armed country from bankruptcy by extending an “appropriate loan”.

    “I hope the decision will be taken soon. It won’t help to have it in six months, or six weeks. Rather, we need it in the coming six days,” he said after meeting Pakistan’s president Asif Ali Zardari and foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

    Shortly after he made his remarks, a Pakistani official told the Financial Times that negotiations with the IMF were “in the final stages” and that the government expected agreement on a letter of intent with the Fund “within one or two days”.

    The official said that a letter of intent would be followed by a formal request to the IMF’s board for funding, with an agreement likely to be finalised by mid-November.

    “It is a precarious situation which has to be tackled,” said Abid Hasan, former adviser on Pakistan to the World Bank, referring to the need for international financial assistance. “Time is running out”.

    Foreign governments fear that a growing balance of payments crisis could further destabilise the country and imperil its fragile security situation.

    Pakistan needs $4bn-$5bn for the financial year to June 2009 to meet debt payments and other liabilities, according to finance ministry officials in Islamabad.

    An official at the central bank said the country’s foreign currency reserves stood at $4bn and were likely to run out by the end of November. “We have a very narrow space to put the country back on the rails,” he said.

    An IMF programme is expected to last till June 2010 and could be worth a total of $12bn-$15bn, officials say.

    Technical discussions between IMF staff and Pakistani officials have been taking place in Dubai because the IMF has barred staff members from travelling to Islamabad following a suicide bombing of the Mariott hotel in the city in September.

    Earlier on Tuesday, Moody’s, the rating agency, downgraded Pakistani government bonds and signalled that it may cut its rating further.

    Mr Steinmeier pledged to support Pakistan in its negotiations with the IMF. He is also expected to lobby Middle East countries for help on Pakistan’s behalf ahead of a donor conference in Abu Dhabi in mid-November.

    He said Germany would provide both short and long-term assistance at the “Friends of Pakistan” donor conference. The group, which includes the US, the European Union, the UAE and China, was established on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly last month to help stabilise Pakistan’s economy.