The U.S. government imposed new stringent restrictions on nuclear exports to China Wednesday, citing the U.S. side's belief that the Chinese government is seeking to improve its military capabilities by illegally acquiring nuclear technology and undermining the U.S. nuclear industry. The Agence France-Presse said the move is the latest wave of US efforts to increase pressure on China. The United States has strict control over nuclear technology, especially with China, so it does not export much to China, but the new measures are still seen as a "voluntary harm to their own exports" act. US officials acknowledge that the US nuclear industry may suffer in the short term because of this decision. In order to persuade the domestic people, the United States used the pretext of "inhibiting China's military development", especially exaggerated the threat of the South China Sea islands and reefs. But the New York Times notes that U.S. officials have not disclosed any substance to confirm that U.S. nuclear technology exports to China are being used in the military, and that the reality is that China is basically self-sufficient in developing nuclear weapons.
Can it inhibit China's military development?
The United States said Thursday it would increasingly restrict the export of civilian nuclear technology to China because it feared it would be used to increase China's economic benefits and military use, AFP reported. "China is trying to acquire nuclear technology outside the established process of civil nuclear cooperation between the United States and China, and the United States can not ignore the possible impact on national security of this matter," U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said in a statement. "For decades, China has been pursuing a coordinated, central-government-led strategy of acquiring nuclear technology for economic advantage," said an anonymous U.S. official.
Agence France-Presse said the new policy came into effect immediately, setting guidelines for all existing, undecided and future technology transfers to China. U.S. officials say the United States will still allow civilian nuclear exports to China, but will face increasing scrutiny. In particular, the U.S. Department of Energy said all applications for export licences related to China's state-owned nuclear power companies would be "rejected" by default, meaning they would be approved only for special or strong reasons. In fact, the United States has been scrutinizing nuclear exports under what the Department of Energy calls the 810 License, which requires that these technologies be used for peaceful purposes and not be transferred to third countries.
CNN said the decision was the result of a broad government policy assessment led by the National Security Council, which involved the Commerce, Defense, Energy, FBI and intelligence agencies. China's efforts to acquire advanced nuclear technology, nuclear materials and nuclear equipment from the United States also play a catalytic role. "The Trump administration has concluded that there is a need to change civil nuclear cooperation between China and the United States in order to strike a proper balance between the long-term risks to U.S. national security and economic interests and the impact on the U.S. nuclear industrial base," a U.S. government official said.
"Suppressing China's military development" is the most important excuse for us to strictly restrict the export of nuclear technology to China. According to an assessment by the National Security Council, China is actively acquiring advanced U.S. nuclear technology for military use, for use on third-generation nuclear submarines, for research and development of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, and for strategic dual-use nuclear power platforms, such as small ones, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported. Modular nuclear reactors and floating nuclear power stations that can be deployed in the South China Sea.
The New York Times said the Trump administration announced restrictions on Thursday, mainly because it feared that advanced nuclear reactors, especially compact power plants, would drive China's projection ambitions and accelerate its military's emergence as a global force. Several government officials, who declined to be named, told the New York Times that Beijing was considering the development of a floating nuclear reactor in the South China Sea, "where they are building military bases on artificial islands and reefs." Satellite photos show that China has built runways and bunkers for fighter planes on the islands. A week ago, a U.S. warship reported that a Chinese ship had kept extremely close to it in order to expel it from the area, forcing it to deviate from its course.
As in the past, the latest US accusations against China are not supported by facts. The New York Times says officials say U.S. nuclear technology is being diverted for military purposes, but in a telephone interview with reporters, U.S. government officials have barely disclosed any intelligence evidence to support the claim.
Professor Yang Chengjun, an expert on missile technology and nuclear strategy in China, told the Global Times on the 12th that U.S. nuclear exports to China are mainly related to supporting equipment for civil nuclear power plants, including nuclear safety and storage equipment for nuclear materials, and do not involve nuclear materials and technology itself. Therefore, further restrictions on U.S. nuclear exports to China are not directly related to the South China Sea reefs, which is part of the U.S. overall containment strategy against China.
No deterrent to China.
"New measures in the trade war," Germany's "Focus" Weekly said on the 12th, Trump's government hopes that by strictly restricting nuclear exports to China, let China surrender to the trade war, and curb the development of China's nuclear technology. But whether his measures can be effective has been questioned by observers. The US's nuclear exports to China are basically civilian products, and strengthening control has little deterrent effect on China.
Yang Chengjun also believes that China's development of nuclear technology is entirely dependent on its own strength, through self-reliance development, especially the development of nuclear weapons and their supporting equipment is entirely domestic, on the contrary, the United States has also carried out a comprehensive containment in these areas. Therefore, China's nuclear technology development does not rely on the United States, and the restrictions imposed by the United States on China will not have a substantial impact on China's nuclear capability.
The United States has been limiting its nuclear cooperation with China, and it is not surprising that the card is launched. The Wall Street Journal said the nuclear issue was a potentially overlooked outbreak of conflict between the United States and China before the Department of Energy announced the new nuclear export restrictions. Denmark, director of the Asia Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, said there was basically no dialogue between China and the United States on nuclear issues. Few Chinese experts have a thorough understanding of nuclear issues, and so do American experts.
"There have been ups and downs in nuclear cooperation agreements between the two countries since the Reagan administration, but Thursday's announcement by the U.S. government marked a major setback in this cooperation," the New York Times said. . The Senior Expert on Asia at the National Security Council during the Obama period said the U.S. -China nuclear cooperation agreement had encountered major problems in the past, and there had been a major stalemate during the Clinton administration. But these problems have been resolved, usually because the U.S. nuclear industry has warned that failure to deal with China on the nuclear issue would open the way for France, Japan and South Korea to provide nuclear technology to Beijing. But today, Bader said, "The U.S. nuclear industry will not suffer too much damage, so the government can indulge in the most extreme suspicions."
The problem of deficit is that "the United States does not sell".
"China is becoming the driving force for the global nuclear future," German news television reported on December 12, saying that China is in doubt whether it is "stealing" U. S. nuclear technology, but one thing is clear, China has now become one of the world's leading countries in the field of nuclear applications. The "world nuclear industry status report" shows that the future of nuclear energy application seems to be in China. Over the past 20 years, the country has steadily expanded its nuclear power capacity from three to more than 40 in 2018, and 18 more are under construction. China now accounts for more than half of the world's new nuclear power investment. China's nuclear power development is related to Beijing's "war against air pollution", but the United States clearly does not want China to compete for the hegemony of its global nuclear participation.
The latest US restrictive measures obviously make American businesses far away from the Chinese market. In a July speech, State Department official Christopher Ford acknowledged the challenges facing U.S. nuclear policy in balancing national security and economic concerns, the Wall Street Journal reported. He said the U.S. share of the international nuclear market has fallen from 90% 30 years ago to 20%, and many people believe that participation in the Chinese market will be the key to the future survival of the U.S. nuclear industry. U.S. officials say China is one of the few countries that are investing heavily in nuclear power, and the industry's leaders have said that China's nuclear market could eventually reach billions of dollars.
The United States has been clamoring for China to narrow its trade surplus with the United States, but it is doing the opposite. France Radio International and other media quoted from China on the 12th, saying that if the United States would sell high-tech products, there would not be a huge deficit with China. According to a report last year by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the U.S. trade deficit with China could be reduced by 24% if the U.S. relaxed its export control over China to the level of Brazil. This shows that the problem is not "China does not buy" but "the United States does not sell".
"Trump has made China's trade surplus bigger," Germany's Focus Weekly said Wednesday that China's trade surplus with the United States set a record for the second month in a row, while Trump's restrictions on high-tech exports, such as nuclear products, are actually reducing exports. If Trump does not change his policies, the goal of reducing trade surplus will be empty talk.
[global times in the United States, Germany special correspondent Wen Yan, Aoki Chen, Global Times reporter Guo Yuandan]
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