The U.S.-Vietnam Nuclear Deal
Any nuclear-cooperation deal must meet the nonproliferation gold standard.
By Victor Gilinsky & Henry Sokolski
National Review Online
On October 10, Secretary of State John Kerry revealed that while one team of State Department negotiators was trying to get Iran to back off producing nuclear fuels that can also be used as explosives, another team negotiated a U.S.-Vietnam Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement – which Kerry initialed – that contains no legal bars to such fuel activities. This disparity will not escape Iran’s attention. It will also limit what restrictions on the making of nuclear fuel U.S. negotiators can demand of South Korea as they renew America’s current civilian-nuclear-cooperation agreement with Seoul. Congress will get an opportunity in December to review the Vietnam agreement. It should say No.
The unspoken official rationale for tolerating lax nonproliferation conditions in such agreements is the old saw that these deals will generate billions of dollars in U.S. nuclear exports and create thousands of new U.S. jobs. That was the argument for striking the 2008 agreement with India, a Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) holdout. The economic gains there turned out to be illusory. The prospects for U.S. jobs from nuclear sales to Vietnam are equally dim.