WASHINGTON: The United States has “a very solid cooperation” on nuclear security with Pakistan and plans to continue this collaboration, says US Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller.
Ms Gottemoeller, who leads the US interagency policy process on non-proliferation, also said that Pakistan now “has quite a mature capability” of defending its nuclear weapons and installations.
Briefing the media on the fourth and final Nuclear Security Summit, which is being held in Washington on March 31 and April 1, Ms Gottemoeller and other senior US officials clarified that the conference was not called to identify any particular state as a violator or wrong-doer.
“We have a very solid cooperation with Pakistan on nuclear security” and the country “has quite a mature capability now”, she said when asked to spell out US concerns on Pakistan’s nuclear programme.
She pointed out that Pakistan had developed its own Nuclear Security Centre of Excellence in recent years and the United States continued to work with the Pakistanis on the nuclear security front.
She, however, identified one cause of concern, the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons, but clarified that this concern was not focused on Pakistan alone.
“Our concerns regarding the continuing deployment of battlefield nuclear weapons by Pakistan relate to a reality of the situation: When battlefield nuclear weapons are deployed forward, they can represent an enhanced nuclear security threat,” she said.
“It’s more difficult to sustain positive control over systems that are deployed forward. We found this lesson ourselves out in Europe during the years of the Cold War.”
She noted that this was reality of the situation and it was not related particularly to any one country.
“Wherever battlefield nuclear weapons exist, they represent particular nuclear security problems,” she said.
When a journalist included Pakistan among the countries engaged in proliferation of nuclear weapons and asked Laura Holgate, Special Assistant to the US President, to “name and shame” them, she said: “The purpose of the summits is not to name and shame. The purpose of the summits is to identify steps that we can take together, and certainly, individual steps that individual countries can make.”
Ms Holgate, however, acknowledged that the summit was “a place to create peer pressure”, but “you will not hear us say in an official context or any other context that we have particular concerns about particular countries”.
Responding to a similar question about Pakistan at a White House briefing on the summit, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes and Ms Holgate once again refused to name the countries from where terrorists could obtain a nuclear weapon, although they detailed the steps that needed to be taken to prevent them from doing so.
This has been a clear pattern in all official US briefings on the nuclear summit. Even when a questioner named Pakistan, US officials often underlined the measures the country had taken to secure its nuclear installations and avoided “naming and shaming” Pakistan, as an Indian journalist asked them to do at one of the briefings.
“Without question, Pakistan takes very seriously its responsibility to provide security for both nuclear material and nuclear weapons,” Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Non-proliferation Thomas Countryman told a third hearing.
“As a consequence of the summit process as well as our bilateral cooperation, they have taken important steps forward in providing that security,” he said.
US Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programmes Bonnie Jenkins, who visited Pakistan’s Centre of Excellence earlier this month, noted that Islamabad “takes this issue seriously”.
“We went to their nuclear regulatory authority and had successful meetings and it showed what they are doing in training individuals on issues of nuclear security,” she said.
Ambassador Jenkins also noted that Pakistan had ratified the amended Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, a measure that brings the convention closer to enforcement.