China said on Tuesday that discussions on the entry of countries into the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group was on the agenda at this week’s plenary in Seoul, but that India was not among these countries.
In a statement to India Today, the Foreign Ministry in Beijing said that the agenda of this week’s plenary that had been circulated by the chair had not included the issue of entry of India or of any country that is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Further, the Foreign Ministry said the NSG had never on its agenda included the issue of non-NPT countries joining the grouping.
The statement also said the NSG had already had “three unofficial discussions” on the question of entry of non-NPT countries, but that parties were “yet to see eye to eye” on the issue, raising questions on whether their differences could be bridged at this week’s plenary which concludes on Friday.
Tuesday’s statement underlines China’s position that while the door was open for talks in general on the criteria for entry of non-NPT countries, in its view it was too early to consider the specific bids of non-NPT states.
Beijing did add that it was ready to have further discussions on the issue and “will play a constructive role”.
“Deliberation on the entry of specific countries is on the agenda of the Seoul Plenary Meeting,” the statement said. “However, it is worth noting that the meeting is only to deliberate on the entry application of countries that are state parties to the NPT. As for the entry of non-NPT countries, the group has never put that on its meeting agenda. Based on what we have at hand, the agenda of this year’s Seoul Plenary Meeting circulated by the Chair does not include this issue either.”
Officials said the question of India’s entry could be included by the chairman and that informal discussions could indeed take place even though the issue is not on the agenda.
However, whether China, as well as at least five of the NSG’s 48 members that have raised concerns on the entry of India citing its status as a non-NPT country, will acquiesce remains unclear.
“The NSG has never put the entry application of non-NPT countries on its agenda, so it makes no sense to say that discussions are blocked,” the Foreign Ministry statement said.
“It is true that all parties attach great importance to the entry of non-NPT countries, and the group has had three unofficial discussions on various issues related to the entry of non-NPT countries through Friends of Chair presided over by the Argentine Ambassador. Although parties are yet to see eye to eye on this issue, such discussions help them better understand each other. China hopes to further discuss this issue and will play a constructive role in the discussions,” the statement said.