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Mark Hibbs of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) said that on a visit to Beijing in March, CNNC officials had told him that a final contract had been signed with Pakistan and they would go ahead as planned.

But he said he has seen no indication that the Chinese are proceeding with the deal in the wake of the international outcry.

In a talk at CEIP on Wednesday, Mr. Hibbs said China has four options. It can:

• Decide not to export the reactors.

• Export the reactors by claiming this trade is grandfathered.

• Seek an exemption from the NSG.

• Ignore the NSG guidelines, which are voluntary.

“The U.S. doesn’t really have any options. … NSG guidelines are voluntary. There is nothing the U.S. can do to prevent China from going ahead with this deal,” he said.

Dean Cheng, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told The Washington Times that “unless Washington comes up with a very, very attractive offer, the history of Chinese-Pakistani relations is such that it is unlikely that this deal will not go through.”

China has helped Pakistan set up nuclear reactors since 1991, when CNNC entered into a contract with the PAEC to build Chashma 1, a 325 MW nuclear power reactor. When it joined the NSG in 2004, China cited a Sino-Pakistan framework agreement that committed it to set up a second reactor, Chashma 2, for Pakistan. That project was then considered “grandfathered” and is expected to be complete next year. CNNC and PAEC also worked out a deal to set up two separate 650 MW reactors — Chashma 3 and Chashma 4.

“You have got to hope that the Obama administration will keep China’s feet to the fire and will make sure that they do not proceed with any sale to Pakistan unless it has the blessing of the NSG,” said Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center.

He said the Obama administration must go on the record to clarify what an exception to the rules of the NSG for Pakistan would require.

While China is not breaking any laws, Mr. Sokolski said, “China would be making a mistake in thinking that the law is all that speaks to what it is they need to do. If they want to stay a member in good standing they have got to adhere to the rules. And the rules for that understanding are clear: they cannot make this sale without getting an exemption.”