AP sources: US, China in new nuclear security deal

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama plans to announce a deal to step up cooperation with China on nuclear security, U.S. officials say.

The agreement, which is to be signed by U.S. and Chinese energy officials during the visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao, would establish a jointly financed nuclear security center in China, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record before Obama’s announcement.

The announcement comes as the Obama administration is looking for ways to ease tensions between the two world powers over economic, trade and security issues.

The U.S. sees the agreement as an opening to expand security cooperation with China. The U.S. has spent billions of dollars on extensive cooperation on nuclear security with Russia and often has used the issue as way to stimulate further political cooperation. But it has had very limited interaction with China on nuclear security.

The U.S. considers China a vital player in attempts to contain North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and its aggression against South Korea. The U.S. also needs Chinese support to rein in Iran’s nuclear ambitions, as China is a veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council.

The venture would be aimed at training to improve security at nuclear facilities and accounting of nuclear materials. U.S. officials also hope to hold joint exercises on response to nuclear disasters and terrorism and to share nuclear detection technology.

The officials also said the two countries plan to open up the center to other countries in Asia, hoping China can use its influence to improve nuclear security in the region.

Under the agreement to be signed by Energy Secretary Steven Chu and China Atomic Energy Authority Chairman Chen Quifa, China would pay for most of the center’s costs, but the United States would provide technology and expertise.

The idea for the center was first proposed by Hu at Obama’s nuclear security summit in April.