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Vietnam Agrees to Not Enrich, Reprocess Material in Nuclear Deal with U.S.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday pose for a photo during the 23rd summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei. The two nations on Thursday signed a nuclear trade pact (ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images). Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday pose for a photo during the 23rd summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei. The two nations on Thursday signed a nuclear trade pact (ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images).

Vietnam and the United States on Thursday inked an atomic trade deal that U.S. officials said included an agreement by Hanoi not to reprocess spent nuclear fuel or enrich uranium -- technological processes that have applications in the development of warheads, Agence France-Presse reported.

Hanoi has promised "not to acquire sensitive nuclear technologies, equipment, and processing," a high-ranking Obama administration official informed journalists.

The pact was anticipated, and Global Security Newswire on Wednesday reported it was likely to be initialed before week's end.

The bilateral accord was signed on the margins of the East Asia summit in Brunei by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh.

Nonproliferation specialists want the Obama administration to extract promises from nations with which it enters into new nuclear-cooperation agreements to not enrich or reprocess atomic material on their own soil -- the so-called "gold standard" -- in order to limit the global spread of the technical capabilities needed to produce warhead-grade material.

"This agreement will create numerous opportunities for our businesses," Kerry said to his Vietnamese counterpart in Brunei, according to a Reuters report. "Obviously our nuclear cooperation is quite significant."

In addition to allowing Vietnam to import sophisticated U.S. nuclear-power technology, the trade deal "will also strengthen the Obama administration's long-standing policy of limiting the spread [of] enrichment and reprocessing capabilities around the world," an unidentified U.S. official said.

Unidentified U.S. officials were reported by the Wall Street Journal as saying that Vietnam would retain the right to down the road to enhance its nuclear power abilities, either through recycling used reactor material or by enriching uranium.

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