Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani on Wednesday hailed his country's relations with China as being “stronger than steel” when he made a brief stopover in the northeastern port city of Tianjin near here on his way home from the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul.

Mr. Gilani met with the Mayor of Tianjin, Huang Xing Guo, during what the Pakistani Embassy said was “a technical stopover” at the city airport for refueling. The Pakistan leader is also scheduled to make another visit to China early next week for the Boao Forum in southern Hainan province.

Mr. Gilani told Mr. Huang that Pakistan wanted to increase trade links with Tianjin, a major industrial city that is known for its port as well as for its power companies. The Tianjin Electric Power Company (TEPC) is already involved in hydropower projects in Pakistan, and is also keen to sell nuclear power reactors to the country.

Mr. Gilani had, at the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, made a pitch for the international community “to give Pakistan access to nuclear technology for peaceful uses on a non-discriminatory basis”. Chinese companies have played a key role in Pakistan's nuclear sector, involved in the construction of seven nuclear power reactors and currently in talks for at least three additional 1,000 MW reactors.

Chinese officials last week told reporters that the civilian nuclear cooperation with Pakistan was continuing, despite concerns voiced by some countries over both the security aspects of the country's nuclear programme as well as the violation of nuclear trade rules by China as a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which bars the transfer of technology to countries that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Luo Zhaohui, Director General of the Department of Asian Affairs at the Foreign Ministry, told reporters that China's cooperation with Pakistan was subject to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, in accordance with international law, and “still going on”.

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