Obama Sends Vietnam Nuclear Trade Pact to Congress

A student photographs a model of a Russian nuclear power plant on display at an international nuclear power exhibition held in Hanoi in October 2012. The White House is poised to submit a U.S.-Vietnamese nuclear trade agreement to Congress for review.
National Journal
Elaine M. Grossman
Add to Briefcase
Elaine M. Grossman
May 8, 2014, 7:57 a.m.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion on Thursday sub­mit­ted to Con­gress a nuc­le­ar trade ac­cord with Vi­et­nam after a re­por­ted Tues­day sign­ing ce­re­mony. The pact could po­ten­tially pro­ceed in­to force later this year.

The 30-year bi­lat­er­al agree­ment — un­der which the United States could share nuc­le­ar ma­ter­i­als, tech­no­lo­gies and in­form­a­tion with the South­east Asi­an na­tion — could be im­ple­men­ted if law­makers do not act to block it with­in 90 days of con­tinu­ous le­gis­lat­ive ses­sion.

Con­gres­sion­al sources said the doc­u­ment was signed earli­er this week. Hanoi’s of­fi­cial news agency re­leased a photo show­ing a Tues­day sign­ing ce­re­mony between Min­is­ter of Sci­ence and Tech­no­logy Nguy­en Quan and U.S. Am­bas­sad­or to Vi­et­nam Dav­id Shear.

Typ­ic­ally such nuc­le­ar trade pacts between Wash­ing­ton and oth­er cap­it­als around the globe go for­ward with few U.S. law­makers even tak­ing no­tice.

This first-ever nuc­le­ar ac­cord ty­ing the United States to Vi­et­nam could be dif­fer­ent, though.

Some power­ful mem­bers of the House and Sen­ate have raised con­cerns about re­ward­ing Hanoi when it has a spotty hu­man rights re­cord. Nu­mer­ous non­pro­lif­er­a­tion ex­perts and law­makers from both sides of the aisle also have cri­ti­cized the U.S.-Vi­et­nam pact for lack­ing bind­ing pro­vi­sions aimed at pre­vent­ing Vi­et­nam from un­der­tak­ing sens­it­ive nuc­le­ar fuel-mak­ing activ­it­ies that could con­trib­ute to build­ing nuc­le­ar weapons.

At a late-Janu­ary hear­ing, for ex­ample, Sen­ate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee Chair­man Robert Men­en­dez (D-N.J.) de­man­ded to know why Wash­ing­ton ac­cep­ted a polit­ic­al side note with Vi­et­nam in­dic­at­ing that Hanoi would not en­rich urani­um or re­pro­cess plutoni­um do­mest­ic­ally, rather than in­sert that “im­port­ant state­ment in­to a bind­ing part of the agree­ment.”

“I’d like to have an an­swer to that,” said the chair­man, backed by a num­ber of pan­el Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats.

Men­en­dez said he might al­low the Vi­et­nam pact to pro­ceed, but only if it is ac­com­pan­ied by “a par­al­lel res­ol­u­tion on hu­man rights as part of our com­pre­hens­ive part­ner­ship un­der­stand­ing.”

U.S. nuc­le­ar lob­by­ists — sup­por­ted by some law­makers and non­pro­lif­er­a­tion ad­voc­ates — say that Wash­ing­ton would re­tain more pos­it­ive in­flu­ence with na­tions de­vel­op­ing their own atom­ic-power cap­ab­il­it­ies if it helps fa­cil­it­ate their work.

“If you look at the Vi­et­nam of 15 years ago and you look at Vi­et­nam today, it’s a dra­mat­ic­ally changed na­tion,” Sen­at­or John Mc­Cain (R-Ar­iz.) said at the Jan. 30 com­mit­tee hear­ing. “This agree­ment is an­oth­er step in what has evolved in­to a part­ner­ship between the United States and Vi­et­nam.”

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has de­lib­er­ated in­tern­ally over its nuc­le­ar trade and non­pro­lif­er­a­tion policy for years, lead­ing to some dra­mat­ic splits between seni­or En­ergy and State de­part­ment of­fi­cials, among oth­ers.

Last year, the White House con­cluded it would take what of­fi­cials call a “flex­ible” policy to­ward ne­go­ti­ations on atom­ic co­oper­a­tion pacts, de­mand­ing only in se­lec­ted cases that glob­al part­ners prom­ise not to pro­duce their own nuc­le­ar fuel in ex­change for Wash­ing­ton’s nuc­le­ar bless­ing.

What We're Following See More »
THE PLAN ALL ALONG?
Manchin Drops Objections, Clearing Way for Spending Deal
1 days ago
THE LATEST

"The Senate standstill over a stopgap spending bill appeared headed toward a resolution on Friday night. Senators who were holding up the measure said votes are expected later in the evening. West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin had raised objections to the continuing resolution because it did not include a full year's extension of retired coal miners' health benefits," but Manchin "said he and other coal state Democrats agreed with Senate Democratic leaders during a caucus meeting Thursday that they would not block the continuing resolution, but rather use the shutdown threat as a way to highlight the health care and pension needs of the miners."

Source:
UNCLEAR WHAT CAUSED CHANGE OF HEART
Giuliani Out of Running For State
1 days ago
BREAKING

Donald Trump transition team announced Friday afternoon that top supporter Rudy Giuliani has taken himself out of the running to be in Trump's cabinet, though CNN previously reported that it was Trump who informed the former New York City mayor that he would not be receiving a slot. While the field had seemingly been narrowed last week, it appears to be wide open once again, with ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson the current favorite.

Source:
ALSO VICE-CHAIR OF TRUMP’S TRANSITION TEAM
Trump Taps Rep. McMorris Rodgers for Interior Secretary
1 days ago
BREAKING
SHUTDOWN LOOMING
House Approves Spending Bill
2 days ago
BREAKING

The House has completed it's business for 2016 by passing a spending bill which will keep the government funded through April 28. The final vote tally was 326-96. The bill's standing in the Senate is a bit tenuous at the moment, as a trio of Democratic Senators have pledged to block the bill unless coal miners get a permanent extension on retirement and health benefits. The government runs out of money on Friday night.

HEADS TO OBAMA
Senate Approves Defense Bill
2 days ago
THE LATEST

The Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act today, sending the $618 billion measure to President Obama. The president vetoed the defense authorization bill a year ago, but both houses could override his disapproval this time around.

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login