ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistan said Saturday that China will help it build two more nuclear power plants, offsetting Pakistani frustration over a recent nuclear deal between archrival India and the United States.
The agreement with China was among 12 accords signed during Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari's recent visit to Beijing, said Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
While Qureshi gave few details, the accord deepens Pakistan's long-standing ties with China at a time when its relations with Washington are strained over the dragging war against terrorism.
U.S. officials including Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher, who arrived in Islamabad on Saturday for talks, have rejected Pakistani calls for equal treatment with India on nuclear power.
Chinese leaders "do recognize Pakistan's need, and China is one country that at international forums has clearly spoken against the discriminatory nature of that understanding" between Washington and New Delhi, Qureshi said.
Zardari met with China's top leaders during his first official trip to Beijing since replacing stalwart U.S. ally Pervez Musharraf as president in September.
China, a major investor and arms supplier for Pakistan, has already helped it build a nuclear power plant at Chashma, about 125 miles southwest of the capital, Islamabad. Work on a second nuclear plant is in progress and is expected to be completed in 2011.
Qureshi said the Chashma III and Chashma IV reactors would provide Pakistan with an additional 680 megawatts of generating capacity.
He didn't say when they would be built or what assistance China would provide.
Nor did he discuss any measures to prevent nuclear materials from the new plants from being diverted to Pakistan's atomic weapons program. Pakistan has placed several other civilian reactors under International Atomic Energy Authority safeguards.
Pakistan's nuclear program remains a sore topic with Washington because of its past record of proliferation.
International sanctions were slapped on Pakistan after it detonated its first nuclear charges in 1998 in response to similar tests by India.
The sanctions were eased after Musharraf agreed to help Washington hunt down Al Qaeda terrorists responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.
But the revelation in 2004 that the architect of Islamabad's nuclear program, Abdul Qadeer Khan, had passed nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea set back Pakistan's hopes of becoming a trusted member of the world's exclusive nuclear club.
The U.S.-India deal allows American businesses to sell nuclear fuel, technology and reactors to India in exchange for safeguards and U.N. inspections of India's civilian — but not military — nuclear plants.
Boucher told reporters earlier this month that the pact with India was "unique" and that a similar agreement with Pakistan was "just not on the table."
He said Washington would help Pakistan — where chronic power shortages are contributing to a gathering economic crisis — develop its huge coal reserves, expand hydroelectric power generation and build wind farms on its Arabian Sea coast.
Pakistan, the Islamic world's only known nuclear weapons state, began operating its first nuclear power station with Canadian assistance near the southern port city of Karachi in 1972.