Dáil Éireann - Volume 471 - 13 November, 1996

Written Answers. - Sale of Nuclear Technology.

88. Mr. R. Burke asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps, if any, being taken by the Government to confirm or discount reports of the alleged sale of nuclear weapons-related equipment from China to Pakistan in view of the serious implications of such allegations. [21285/96]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring): As I indicated in my reply to the Deputy on 22 October 1996, the Government would naturally be extremely concerned if any sale of prohibited nuclear weapons technology by a nuclear weapons state to a non-nuclear weapons state were to be confirmed. Such sales to a non-party to the NPT which is, moreover, one of the three so-called “threshold nuclear weapons states” would be a particularly grave matter. I also said in that reply, however, that I had no evidence at my disposal that China had sold prohibited nuclear technology to Pakistan and that both China and Pakistan had denied that any illegal transfer had taken place. I have no authoritative new information at my disposal at this time nor has Ireland any independent capacity to verify the accuracy of the reports in question.

There is an international mechanism through which allegations concerning prohibited nuclear sales can be investigated. The International [1054] Atomic Energy Agency is charged with overseeing the implementation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and in exercise of this function, it endeavours to investigate allegations made by member Governments. From time to time, substantiated reports are brought to the attention of the membership. If the agency were to confirm that NPT commitments had actually been breached, Ireland, along with the other members of the agency, would consider what action would be warranted.

If, as a member of the relevant export control regimes — the nuclear suppliers group or the missile technology control regime — Ireland received confidential information tending to confirm the alleged sale of prohibited nuclear technology or otherwise giving cause for concern, we would, as a responsible exporter be guided by such information when making any pertinent export control decisions. Ireland adheres scrupulously to its obligation not to export any material likely to contribute to a clandestine nuclear weapons programme.