Hill Unlikely to Stop Funding of China Nuke Agency

The U.S. government’s commitment of $5 billion in financing for the China National Nuclear Corporation has met with some sharp criticism on Capitol Hill, but not from the leaders of the committees that have oversight over the agency responsible.

The U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) has granted a preliminary commitment for the loan deal to CNNC to enable that state-owned company in the People’s Republic of China to buy cutting-edge nuclear reactors from Westinghouse, a British-owned company that manufactures reactors in Pennsylvania.

U.S. intelligence has found CNNC on four occasions providing technology to Iran and Pakistan that would help those countries weaponize uranium and plutonium, as HUMAN EVENTS reported last week.

CNNC is planning to build four nuclear reactors in China, and has accepted bids from French and Russian companies as well as Westinghouse. Ex-Im financing was part of the bid Westinghouse made.

Vaughan Gilbert, Westinghouse’s spokesman, said, “We do business in full compliance with the laws and regulations of the United States….It was the Clinton Administration that deemed it appropriate for the U.S. to do business with China’s nuclear industry.”

Gilbert added that the technology in the reactors they are selling “is not readily transferable to a weapons program.”

House International Relations Chairman Henry Hyde (R.-Ill.), when told of the deal, said, “It sounds very dangerous….I don’t think helping China develop its nuclear capabilities is in our interest at all.”

Hyde’s committee does not oversee Ex-Im, however. It is overseen by the House Financial Services Committee. A spokesman for Chairman Michael Oxley (R.-Ohio) said Oxley would not comment on the deal.

In the Senate, the Banking Committee has jurisdiction. While Banking Chairman Richard Shelby (R.-Ala.) did not comment, spokesman Andrew Gray said: “There is an inevitable tension that exists between the desire to support U.S. commercial interests abroad on one hand and the requirement to ensure national security is not endangered through the advancement of those commercial interests…. While Sen. Shelby has reservations about this transaction, it may be that the benefits may outweigh the potential negatives.”

Gray’s statement noted the committee is reviewing Ex-Im’s budget request and that in 2006, Ex-Im’s authorization will expire. That means Congress must pass a bill to reauthorize the agency.

In the past, Rep. Ron Paul (R.-Tex.) has been one of the few votes against reauthorizing Ex-Im. When asked about Ex-Im’s deal with the CNNC, Paul responded, “The Export-Import Bank shouldn’t exist.”

“This is just more of the same hypocrisy,” Paul told HUMAN EVENTS. “We do all this bashing of China, but nobody says anything about our subsidized trade with them.”

The latest State Department Human Rights Report on China says: “Citizens did not have the right to change their government, and many who openly expressed dissenting political views were harassed, detained, or imprisoned.”

Rep. Chris Smith (R.-N.J.) has introduced a resolution calling on the administration, at the United Nations, to condemn Chinese human rights abuses.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R.-Calif.), one of the harshest China critics in Washington called the Ex-Im deal, “Yet more proof of the insanity of our China policy.”

“It’s good that Hitler’s regime in Germany isn’t around, because they’d be competing with China for our export subsidies,” said Rohrabacher.