Chinese firm admits nuclear export violations: U.S. Justice Dept

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A nuclear engineering company with ties to the Chinese government pleaded guilty on Monday to charges of illegally exporting coatings that can withstand high temperatures to a power plant in Pakistan, the U.S. Justice Department said.

China Nuclear Industry Huaxing Construction Co Ltd entered the guilty plea in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, according to the department.

The company admitted to charges that it conspired to ship the high-performance coatings through China to Pakistan in 2006 and 2007. The shipments were made despite Washington’s denial of an application to export the coatings directly to Pakistan’s Chashma II nuclear power plant, according to papers filed in court ahead of the plea.

The United States has restricted nuclear-related exports to Pakistan since the country’s first successful detonation of a nuclear device in 1998.

A lawyer for Huaxing did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company agreed to a criminal fine of $2 million, half of which it will not have to pay if it completes five years of probation, the Justice Department said.

Huaxing’s guilty plea is believed to be the first time a China-controlled corporation has entered a guilty plea in a U.S. criminal export case, said Ronald Machen, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.

A Chinese subsidiary of PPG Industries Inc, which made the coatings, pleaded guilty in connection with the same conspiracy in 2010.

Reporting by David Ingram; Editing by Jackie Frank