Pakistan boosts nuclear arsenal?

US satellite photos released this week show Pakistan has expanded two sites crucial to its atomic program—apparently in an effort to bolster its nuclear arsenal. A report from the Institute for Science and International Security said the images reveal a major expansion of a complex near Dera Ghazi Khan. Photos of a second site near the garrison town of Rawalpindi suggested that Pakistan had added a second plutonium separation plant adjacent to the old one. (Radio Australia, AFP, April 21)

Members of Congress were told in confidential briefings this week that Pakistan is rapidly adding to its nuclear arsenal even while racked by insurgency. Reported the New York Times May 18:

Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed the assessment of the expanded arsenal in a one-word answer to a question on Thursday in the midst of lengthy Senate testimony. Sitting beside Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, he was asked whether he had seen evidence of an increase in the size of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal.

“Yes,” he said quickly, adding nothing, clearly cognizant of Pakistan’s sensitivity to any discussion about the country’s nuclear strategy or security…

Bruce Riedel, the Brookings Institution scholar who served as the co-author of Mr. Obama’s review of Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy, reflected the administration’s concern in a recent interview, saying that Pakistan “has more terrorists per square mile than anyplace else on earth, and it has a nuclear weapons program that is growing faster than anyplace else on earth.”

The claims were vigorously denied by Pakistan. “We consider this…a malicious campaign against Pakistan which in our view is contrary to facts,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit. “It is counter-productive to the collective objective of defeating militants and terrorism and also raises serious doubts in the minds of the people of Pakistan about the … objective of those engaging in negative propaganda.” (Reuters, May 21)

See our last posts on Pakistan and nuclear fear.

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