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Complex web of nuclear, missile secrets entangle Pakistan, North Korea and China -AP

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Jan 02,2003
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - While the war on terrorism drew international attention away from Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, the brewing crisis in North Korea has put the spotlight right back on it despite assurances that Islamabad has not sold nuclear secrets and that it keeps all of its warheads pointed at India. Accusations that Pakistan gave nuclear secrets to North Korea in return for missile technology cut to the core of this South Asian country's weakest points: a secretive military government that long kept nuclear programs concealed from civilian authorities and the complex web of alliances it spun around the region's seemingly irresolvable conflicts. "All countries accept the fact that Pakistan's command and control structure and Pakistan's nuclear program are in completely safe hands," Aziz Ahmed Khan, a foreign ministry spokesman, said Monday, without specifying who controlled the program the army or the civilian government. The complex game of denials and accusations may end if nuclear inspectors find what one Pakistani physicist describes as signature Pakistani technology at North Korea's alleged uranium-enrichment facilities. North Korea seems unlikely to grant such inspections. But if those facilities hold a centrifugal system of enriching uranium to weapons grade, then it was given to the North Koreans by Pakistan, said Pakistani nuclear physicist Dr. A.D. Nayyar, a research fellow with the independent think tank The Sustainable Development Institute "There is no one else who could have given it to them. It would be like a fingerprint and for that reason I think they wouldn't have done it," said Nayyar. "It would be too obvious. Deniability would not be possible." But it is more complex than just Pakistan and North Korea which has ratcheted up nuclear tensions by reactivating a nuclear complex that experts say can produce weapons within months. In fact, Pakistan's missile and nuclear program has roots in both China and North Korea, according to the scientific community in Pakistan and the United States and U.S. intelligence sources. The Federation of American Scientists says China, a longtime Pakistan ally and sometime India foe _first offered Pakistan nuclear help in 1980. The American scientists say China gave Pakistan a warhead design as well as sufficient highly enriched uranium for a few weapons. Pakistan's Shaheen missile series, capable of carrying nuclear and conventional warheads, is a near copy of the Chinese-made M-11 missiles, says Nayyar. Pakistan's next generation Ghauri missile series - tested in October and capable of carrying a nuclear payload deep into India - is a copy of North Korea's Nodong missile, says the Federation of American Scientists and Nayyar. Any attack by any nation against Pakistan would bring immediate retaliation against India, with whom Islamabad has fought and lost three wars, a former army chief of staff says. "Our policy of deterrence is India-specific. No matter who comes for us, Israel, the United States or India we will take on India. If someone is thinking of taking on Pakistan they should know we will take on India," said Former Army Chief of Staff Aslam Beg, who now heads an independent right-wing think tank in the federal capital. That policy still stands, according to a Pakistani official. "We have no threat from any neighboring country except from India," said the Information Ministry official on condition of anonymity. Pakistan conducted underground nuclear tests in 1998 after India conducted tests of its own. Pakistan launched its nuclear weapons program after India conducted its first nuclear test in 1973. Pakistan's path to developing nuclear and missile technology is shrouded in secrecy, and always leads back to the country's powerful military, which has ruled for more than half of the country's 55-year existence. Assurances have come repeatedly from Pakistan's civilian governments that the country's nuclear technology is not for sale. But a senior Cabinet minister under former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told The Associated Press that civilian governments at that time had little to say in either the nuclear or missile programs. "The nuclear program was under the army. We were only informed of decisions" after they were made, the former minister said on condition of anonymity. Sharif was in power twice in the 1990s, dismissed once on corruption charges and overthrown by the military in 1999 on similar charges. Sharif opted for exile in Saudi Arabia over imprisonment on charges ranging from corruption to attempting to kill the army chief. Missiles were purchased from North Korea during Sharif's government, said the former minister. Missile purchases "originally were done at a very exclusive level. I came to know much later what we were paying for the missiles," he said, hinting it may have been an exchange of technology. So concerned was Washington about the allegations of Pakistani technology exchanges that it sent Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley to Islamabad in recent weeks. In December, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca said Musharraf had given his assurances that no help was being given and Washington was satisfied. In the end, many of the answers to the riddle may only be known by one man: physicist Dr. Qadir Khan, known as the father of Pakistan's nuclear program. Khan returned to Pakistan in 1975 from the Netherlands, bringing with him the plans for uranium enrichment centrifuges and lists of sources of the necessary technology. Khan founded the Kahuta Research Laboratories where he set up the centrifuge process and Pakistan carried out its enrichment program. In recent days old accusations surfaced that a middleman speaking on behalf of Khan had offered Iraq nuclear technology __ a charge denied by Pakistan. "The extent and level of nuclear knowledge that we shared with them (North Korea) would be known only by A.Q. Khan," the former cabinet minister said. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- @AP Material contained in JoongAng Ilbo On-Line Service is protected by copyright and shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium. Neither this AP Material nor any portion thereof may be stored in computer except for personal and non-commercial use. The AP will not be held liable for any delays, inaccuracies, errors or omission therefrom or in the transmission or delivery of all or any part thereof or for any damages arising from any of the foregoing.
by Kathy Gannon, Associated Press Writer
January 02, 2003




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