Friday, August 6, 2010

US 'in nuclear talks with Vietnam'

Thursday, August 05, 2010

The US deal with Vietnam may hurt global nuclear non-proliferation efforts [GALLO/GETTY]

The US is reported to be in advanced negotiations to share nuclear fuel and technology with Vietnam in a deal that would allow the communist nation to enrich its own uranium.

The Wall Street Journal newspaper reported on Thursday that the US state department-led negotiations could upset China, which shares hundreds of miles of border with Vietnam.

"The unique feature of this [proposed deal] is that Vietnam will be able to enrich uranium on its own soil, very few countries can do that," Willem Van Kemenade, an analyst specialising in China's global strategic relations, told Al Jazeera from Beijing, the Chinese capital.

The proposed deal "should be seen in the context of Vietnam regionalising and multilateralising its latent conflicts with China" particularly over islands in the South China Sea, Kemenade said.

The paper quoted a senior US official briefed on the negotiations as saying that China had not been consulted on the talks.

"It doesn't involve China," the official said.

'Double standards'
The Journal reported that US officials familiar with the matter say negotiators have given a full nuclear co-operation proposal to Vietnam and have started briefing US House and senate foreign-relations committees.

The paper also said the move will be seen by US government critics as a double standard, as the US has made more stringent demands of its Middle East partners.

Vietnam signed an initial memorandum of understanding with the administration of George Bush in 2001 to pursue co-operation with the US on securing fissile materials and developing civilian nuclear power.

The paper added that the administration of Barack Obama, the US president, has accelerated talks with Hanoi in recent months aimed at completing the deal to allow for the exchange of know-how and co-operation in security, storage and educational areas.

But the Journal said counter-proliferation experts and US legislators briefed on the talks say the deal marks a step backward in Washington's recent nonproliferation efforts.

The paper, however, added that US officials stressed that any agreement with Vietnam will require that Hanoi's nuclear installations be under close oversight by the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The Vietnamese are studying the agreement's final draft and further talks are expected in the fall, US diplomats quoted by the Journal said.

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