Sat, Oct 13, 2018 - Page 7 News List

US to limit nuclear sales to China, its No. 2 buyer


The US on Thursday said that it would increasingly restrict civilian nuclear exports to China as US President Donald Trump vowed a hard line on trade, saying Beijing should not think that Americans are “stupid.”

The US Department of Energy said it would make it more difficult to ship nuclear technology to China, one of the few growing markets for new plants as it tries to meet rising electricity demand through low-carbon sources.

“The United States cannot ignore the national security implications of China’s efforts to obtain nuclear technology outside of established processes of US-China civil nuclear cooperation,” US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry said in a statement.

The measures are the latest salvo in a widening US drive to pressure China, after the Trump administration imposed US$250 billion in tariffs on Chinese imports.

The Energy Department said it would not end exports to China, but would show greater scrutiny, and there “will be a presumption of denial” for new licenses related to state-owned China General Nuclear Power Corp.

The company was last year indicted along with a naturalized US citizen on charges of conspiring to develop sensitive nuclear material with US know-how without going through the required approval process.

The US already carefully reviews nuclear exports through the Energy Department’s so-called Part 810 authorizations, which verify whether the technology goes to peaceful use and will not be sent to a third country.

“For decades China has maintained a concerted, central government-run strategy to acquire nuclear technology to gain economic advantage,” a US official said on condition of anonymity.

The US last year shipped US$170 million in nuclear exports to China, official data showed.

A report published last year by the US Department of Commerce ranked China as the second-largest market for US nuclear exporters, second only to the UK.

“We understand that the US industry may suffer in the short term from this decision,” the official said. “However, China’s concerted effort to emulate and displace US nuclear products could cause the permanent loss of global markets and domestic jobs in the long run.”

Former US president Barack Obama in 2015 signed off on an extension of nuclear cooperation between the US and China, with his administration arguing that Beijing had moved to tighten controls as part of renewal negotiations.

However, relations between the world’s two largest economies have soured sharply, with Trump earlier on Thursday vowing to inflict economic pain on China if it does not blink in the trade war.

“They lived too well for too long and, frankly, I guess they think that the Americans are stupid people. Americans are not stupid people,” Trump said in an interview on TV magazine Fox and Friends.

The tariffs have already “had a big impact,” Trump said.

“Their economy has gone down very substantially,” he said. “I have a lot more to do if I want to do it. I don’t want to do it but they have to come to the table.”

Trump is pressing China to improve trading conditions for US products and to end what US businesses have said is widespread theft of their intellectual property.

China has responded by imposing countertariffs, which the Trump administration has said show political interference by targeting products from key states in next month’s midterm elections.

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