The U.S. Congress is sending to the White House a bill to renew for two years an existing U.S.-South Korea atomic trade deal that otherwise would expire in March.
The House of Representatives on Tuesday unanimously approved the legislation, and a similar bill was approved by the Senate on Monday.
President Obama is expected to sign the bill, which would allow civil nuclear-energy cooperation between the United States and South Korea to continue while the two countries negotiate a replacement accord.
“Today’s important legislation extends the current U.S.-South Korea civil nuclear agreement set to expire this year,” U.S. Representative Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said in a statement celebrating the bill’s passage. “Passage of this legislation … sends a strong message that we are committed to strengthening this critical relationship.”
Negotiations for a new atomic accord have been bogged down over Seoul’s wish to be permitted to domestically reprocess spent nuclear fuel. Though the technology can be used to produce new reactor fuel, it also could be utilized to produce warhead-grade material. Washington is concerned that allowing Seoul reprocessing technology would send a negative nonproliferation signal to the world and could exacerbate tensions with North Korea.