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GOP Senator Concerned by U.S.-Vietnam Nuclear Trade Deal

A senior Republican senator on Monday wrote to the Obama administration to voice concerns about a recently negotiated nuclear-trade agreement with Vietnam that does not explicitly prohibit the country from developing fuel-production technologies that also can be used for weapons-related work.

In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) faulted the administration for having what he dubbed an inconsistent policy for negotiating civil-nuclear cooperation agreements with foreign nations.

"The administration's acceptance of enrichment and reprocessing [ENR] capabilities in new agreements with countries where no ENR capability currently exists is inconsistent and confusing, potentially compromising our nation's nonproliferation policies and goals," Corker wrote.

The United Arab Emirates agreed in negotiations with the U.S. government to give up the right to enrich uranium or reprocess spent atomic fuel -- technologies that can be used both to create reactor fuel and warhead-grade material -- in what has been termed the "gold standard" for nuclear deals. Corker said his staff recently was told by an unidentified State Department official that Jordan also would have to make a legal commitment to not pursue ENR capabilities if it wants to achieve a nuclear deal with Washington.

Corker in his letter said the administration is expected to shortly conclude a nuclear collaboration agreement with Taiwan "that does include legally-binding guarantees not to pursue those very same technologies." The senator added: "And the ongoing [atomic trade] negotiations with the Republic of Korea apparently never even included a discussion of the 'gold standard.'"

Corker is requesting a thorough briefing from the Obama administration prior to the submittal of the U.S.-Vietnam trade deal to Congress. Once the agreement is submitted, the legislative branch will be required within 90 days of continuous session to decide whether to allow, reject or modify the accord.

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