News / Asia

Pakistan's President Visits China

Ahead of a visit by Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari, China is highlighting the traditional friendship and cooperation between the two neighbors.  But China is providing no details of a possible nuclear cooperation deal with Islamabad.  

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang stressed that Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari's visit to China starting Tuesday will focus on good relations between Beijing and Islamabad.

Qin said President Zardari will meet Chinese President Hu Jintao on Wednesday, to discuss "deepening cooperation and friendship between the two countries."  He also said the two countries will sign pacts on cooperation in agriculture, technology, public health and trade.

The spokesman did not directly answer questions about a controversial nuclear deal, in which China apparently will help Pakistan build two nuclear power plants. The official China Daily newspaper quotes Pakistan's ambassador to China, Masood Khan, as saying nuclear cooperation will be on the agenda, but he does not expect any concrete agreements to be signed during this visit.

The reported deal has sparked concern from other countries. One reason is that Pakistan has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which limits signatories in selling nuclear technology.

In addition, one of Pakistan's top nuclear scientists, A.Q. Khan, ran a nuclear smuggling ring that helped Iran, North Korea and Libya.

Pakistan's arch-rival, India, also has not signed the NPT, and, like Pakistan, possesses nuclear weapons. India, however, reached a controversial civilian nuclear deal with the United States in 2008.

On a visit to Beijing in May, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake discussed the possible China-Pakistan nuclear deal.

"I would just say that we are aware of those reports and to the extent that China does want to provide additional reactors to Pakistan, that would require an exception of the guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, so it would be important that China seek the exception from the NSG," Blake said.

More than 40 members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group met in New Zealand last month. Despite discussion of the issue, China did not clarify its intentions regarding Pakistan.

A top Pakistani military official visited China last month and the two countries held joint anti-terrorism military exercises in China and Pakistan on Sunday.

China, however, has been trying to keep a balance between its relations with India and Pakistan. Indian National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon left Beijing Tuesday after several days of meetings with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and other Chinese leaders.

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