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Questions Raised About Wisdom of U.S.-China Nuclear Security Cooperation

U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and the minister of the General Administration of China Customs, Yu Guangzhou, in August sign a bilateral accord in Washington on nuclear security cooperation. Questions have been raised about the wisdom of bilateral collaboration between the two powers (U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration photo). U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and the minister of the General Administration of China Customs, Yu Guangzhou, in August sign a bilateral accord in Washington on nuclear security cooperation. Questions have been raised about the wisdom of bilateral collaboration between the two powers (U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration photo).

Critics are raising questions about whether technical and financial assistance the United States is providing to China to improve its nuclear-security practices also might inadvertently help Beijing strengthen its strategic arsenal, the Washington Times reported.

Construction recently began on a nuclear-security training facility in the Chinese capital that is being jointly financed by Beijing and Washington. The Center of Excellence on Nuclear Security, when complete in 2015, will house environmental laboratory space, test sites and areas where atomic- security professionals can drill in their crisis-responses techniques. The center also will include a focus on combating the illegal sale of atomic technologies. The U.S. government is contributing $10 million to the project, an unidentified U.S. official told the Times for a Wednesday report.

Opponents of the collaboration argue it cannot help but support China's nuclear weapons program as the technological know-how and training provided by the United States to the project will be used at Chinese sites where atomic weapons are produced. The Pentagon is also involved in the nuclear-security facility, according to the Times.

White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the facility will not play a role in protecting the Chinese nuclear stockpile.

Ex-State Department intelligence official John Tkacik questioned why Washington was co-financing the project when China, as the world's second-largest economy, should have the resources to pay for the facility by itself.

"I'm not sure it's worth our trouble and expense if the purpose is to modernize China's nuclear-materials research and management," the former official said. "The Chinese know what their limitations are, and they can afford to cover the entire cost of overcoming them if they want."

The United States has a history of providing assistance to other nuclear-weapon states to help protect their strategic arsenals from theft, most notably through an outpouring of financial aid to Russia at the end of the Cold War. The considerable financial support Washington currently provides to Islamabad also is aimed in part at helping the Pakistani army to combat the threat of local extremists mounting an attack on a nuclear-weapons facility.

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