Archive for July 2010
But Ashley Tellis, who was intimately involved in the 2008 U.S.-India nuclear deal, has a new paper out that makes a the best case I’ve seen so far for strong U.S. resistance to the Sino-Pakistan nuclear deal.
There are three main reasons why some (including officials in the Obama administration) have been unwilling to confront Beijing on this. First, they assert that since the United States made an exception for India by bringing a non-NPT member into the nuclear fold, it seems hypocritical to harangue China for its Pakistan exception. Second, at least a few bought into Beijing’s argument that if these two reactors (Chashma 3 and Chashma 4) were part of bilateral cooperation already grandfathered in before China was approved for membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), then it does not have to follow the grouping’s regulations which prohibit exporting nuclear equipment to countries which do not have adequate international safeguards.
Third, even if the first and second arguments do not hold, there is also a sense among some that since Washington needs China and Pakistan now more than it did before (especially on economic issues and Afghanistan respectively), perhaps it is best to let this one slide in the interest of broader strategic concerns.
Mr. Tellis rubbishes all these claims. First, the U.S.-India deal, he argues, is not analogous to the Sino-Pakistan deal because while the conditions of the former were publicly declared and hotly contested, the latter was concluded in secret, no formal declaration was issued, and the specific guidelines governing the sale are unknown. Furthermore, while the United States went through the trouble of seeking a NSG exemption before the India nuclear deal (including eight meetings over four years, albeit with significant arm-twisting), China is undermining the global nonproliferation regime by not even seeking an exemption because it knows that the grouping will not look favorably upon Pakistan’s less than stellar nonproliferation record (read: A.Q. Khan).
While I’d stress that China did not block the NSG exemption for India (which it could have, considering the deal was at least partly conceived as a balance of power instrument against it) and has complied with NSG voluntary rules beyond Pakistan, the analogy still appears rather imperfect.
Second, the claim that the deal was already “grandfathered in” is nonsense. As others have noted, while China did explain when it joined the NSG that it had a longstanding framework agreement with Pakistan committing it to provide a second reactor, Chashma 2, more research reactors, and supply of all the fuel for these units, Mr. Tellis notes that there is no mention of the current additional power reactors in question (Chashma 3 and Chashma 4) at all. While this may seem like nitpicking, it is important to distinguish what China actually said in the past and what it is now claiming to have said.
Third, he dismisses the fact that that the U.S. needs China or Pakistan more now than it did in 2001, and argues that the issue is important enough and the historical record is convincing enough to warrant confronting Beijing on this issue. The first sub-point is a little weak because it is clear (at least to me) that the United States relies on China and Pakistan more now than in 2001. The Obama administration has been and will be relying so heavily on Pakistan as it moves forward in Afghanistan, a top U.S. priority, and is depending on Chinese support for issues like Iran, North Korea and currency revaluation. We can debate the extent to which this dependence is healthy and useful or whether it should or needs to result in tradeoffs that are inimical to US interests, but those are separate issues.
But the rest of the argument is quite convincing. If Afghanistan is a top priority for Mr. Obama, so is nuclear proliferation, Mr. Tellis argues, and China’s affront to the global nonproliferation regime would be a huge blow for the U.S. president’s goal of a nuclear free world. Furthermore, on this particular issue, China is in fact more dependent on international cooperation (like imported fuel and new reactor technology) for its booming civilian nuclear power program (including key NSG states like Australia and Canada), thus giving Washington and the NSG a good degree of leverage.
Critically, Mr. Tellis also clarifies that China’s attempts to sell Pakistan additional nuclear reactors actually date back to the first term of the Bush administration, and that concerted pressure and warnings from Washington to both Beijing and Islamabad repeatedly prevented an agreement from going through. If pressure has succeeded before, it could do so again.
Regardless of the outcome, however, Mr. Tellis concludes that Washington must not let China’s affront to the global nonproliferation regime go unpunished and should take leadership on the issue in the NSG and mobilize international opposition to the deal. If Beijing wants to secure an NSG exemption on behalf of Islamabad the same way Washington did for New Delhi, then that’s fine since it is in accordance with the NSG regulations of which China is a part. But if a more assertive China just wants to test to what extent it can flout the rules and get away with it, then other countries ought to fight to preserve them and hold Beijing accountable.
But what if China chooses to go ahead with the deal anyway? Mr. Tellis does not address this scenario in his piece. Mark Hibbs, his counterpart at the Carnegie Endowment, does. He makes a convincing case that Washington should try to add nonproliferation benefits as part of the transaction – like both China and Pakistan opening the road to negotiating a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty which would stop the global production of highly enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons, or, more modestly, China helping improve the security of Pakistan’s nuclear installations since it is in its own interests to keep loose nukes away from terrorists. He stops short, though, of advocating kicking China out of the NSG:
Sixty percent of the reactors under construction in the world today are in China. Chinese industry is investing billions of dollars to make equipment for these and future units, and then find new export markets, including in developing countries. U.S. regulators have already warned their Chinese counterparts that without China’s cooperation, unfettered exports of substandard equipment made in China could imperil the safety of the world’s nuclear installations. Outside the NSG, China might in the future not be restrained from exporting sensitive technology if the country establishes itself as a major hub for reprocessing and plutonium-fuels production. With China outside the NSG, the United States and other NSG states would find it harder to get Beijing to strictly implement nuclear export controls. In the worst case, a China adrift from the global nuclear-trade regime could become the future center of a nuclear black market.
Much of the attention over the last two days has been on the huge setback suffered by Japan’s ruling party in Sunday’s midterm elections.
Yet this is only the most recent manifestation of the chronic instability characterizing Japanese politics in recent times, with Japan having five prime ministers in just the past five years. Other trends, like the increasing power of local governments over the central government, efforts to place foreign policy in the hands of politicians instead of experienced bureaucrats, and Tokyo’s demographic troubles, will not only make Japanese domestic politics more complex, but make its foreign policy more difficult to manage in the future.
What does all this mean for the future of the U.S.-Japan alliance, a vital relationship for both nations as well as for Asia more generally? Despite commemorating its 50th anniversary last month, the alliance had come under strain in recent months, particularly under the leadership of former Japanese prime minister Yukio Hatoyama. Here are some excerpts of the long-term recommendations I advocated for the alliance in a recent piece for World Politics Review:
These challenges are by no means inevitable or insurmountable, and some of them will sort themselves out as Japan evolves. For all its strains, uncertainty about China, North Korea and transnational threats will probably continue to drive cooperation between Washington and Tokyo in the near future. Yet even if Japanese politics remain in a state of flux, there are some tangible steps that the United States and Japan can take now in order to navigate through the challenges ahead.
Much of the focus should be on overcoming the perception that the alliance is “structurally strong but operationally weak,” as Yoichi Funabashi, the editor-in-chief of Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun, put it at a recent Center for a New American Security conference. Japan currently ranks 149th in the world in terms of military expenditures as a percentage of GDP, despite repeated North Korean provocations and China’s blistering military modernization. Even if the country’s consensus 1 percent ceiling prevents dramatic increases in defense spending, Tokyo can maximize scarce resources focusing on procurement reform, and ease political constraints by passing fresh defense legislation that gives it more latitude in deploying its Self-Defense Forces. Meanwhile, the United States should lead efforts to conduct an overall bilateral threat assessment and strengthen discussions on extended deterrence, in order to reaffirm the importance of the alliance and to reassure Japan about its security concerns.
Yet while traditional security gets much of the press, it is only one part of a complex and deep bilateral relationship. More focus must be placed in other spheres like development cooperation, climate change and human security, where Japan can play a sustained and significant leadership role. More discussion is also needed about how both countries can help shape the emerging regional architecture in Asia, both bilaterally as well as with India, Australia and key ASEAN countries. Finally, equal attention needs to be given to revitalizing bilateral economic cooperation, including moving towards an eventual bilateral free-trade agreement, as Japan hands Richard Armitage and Joseph Nye have counseled (.pdf).
You can read the full piece here.