Beijing: China has cautiously reacted to India’s landmark civilian nuclear agreement with Japan, saying it backed countries’ peaceful use of nuclear energy as long as it was “conducive” to global non-proliferation.
China, which has in the past expressed reservations about India’s entry into the mainstream of global nuclear commerce, said on Monday in response to the nuclear agreement signed in Tokyo that it believed “all countries are entitled to the peaceful use of nuclear energy” as long as they fulfilled “the international obligation of nuclear non-proliferation”.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang added that “at the same time, the relevant cooperation should be conducive to safeguard the authority and effectiveness of the international nuclear non-proliferation regime”.
China’s guarded reaction comes as it continues to stonewall India’s entry into the 48 member-Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which decides the rules for global nuclear trade. Beijing, however, insists that it is not the only member that is concerned about India’s status as a non-NPT (nuclear non-proliferation treaty) country.
The India-Japan deal will pave the way for not only bilateral commerce but also India’s projects with American nuclear companies that use Japanese technology.
China reluctantly backed a waiver granted by the NSG to India’s civilian nuclear deal with the United States. Beijing, however, responded by exporting nuclear reactors to Pakistan, which it continues to do despite the country’s non-NPT status and without seeking an NSG exemption.
China’s statement on Monday on all countries being “entitled” to civilian nuclear energy echoes its defence of its own controversial deals with Pakistan, which have violated NSG guidelines.
Prime Minister Modi’s Japan visit was closely followed in China, particularly after recent discussions between India and Japan to strengthen maritime security.
The joint statement made as many as three references on countries needing to respect the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), although not explicitly referring to the recent tribunal ruling, constituted under UNCLOS that sided with the Philippines in its disputes with China over the South China Sea.
Asked about the reference to UNCLOS, Geng, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson, responded that “under the concerted efforts of the countries in the region including China, the situation in the South China Sea is developing in a positive direction”.
“We have been repeating that we should come back to the right track of peacefully resolving the relevant dispute through negotiations and consultation,” he said, adding that China hoped “that countries outside the region would respect efforts made by countries in the region” as well as “do more that is conducive to regional peace and stability”.