U.S. confirms nuclear negotiations with Vietnam

09:03, August 06, 2010      

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The U.S. State Department on Thursday confirmed that it's negotiating with Vietnam on a civilian nuclear deal that would "encourage" but not force the country to forgo its option to seek uranium enrichment on its own soil.

Department Spokesman Philip Crowley said at a regular press briefing that negotiators are conducting a so-called 123 Agreement negotiation, which would establish an agreement for cooperation as a prerequisite for nuclear deals between the United States and Vietnam.

Crowley said the negotiation is similar to a civilian nuclear energy deal Washington struck with India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). However, he said the UAE, which signed the deal last year, gave up the option of enriching uranium on its own soil voluntarily, choosing instead to purchase nuclear fuel from the international market.

He said while the administration encourages countries such as Vietnam to make the same choice, it's "a decision for them to make " whether they would forgo the option of uranium enrichment.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier the negotiation between the U.S. and Vietnam would ultimately allow Hanoi to enrich uranium on its own soil. It quoted counterproliferation experts and U.S. lawmakers briefed on the talks as saying the deal marks a step backward in Washington's recent nonproliferation efforts.

Uranium enrichment activity is a core issue in the spat between the West and Iran. The United States has repeatedly accused Iran of harboring military aspirations in its nuclear program, which Iran insists is for civilian use only.

Crowley said if Vietnam or other countries choose to enrich uranium on their own, the United States would "make sure that their pursuit of nuclear energy meets all international safeguards."

Source: Xinhua


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