US confident of Pakistan nuclear security

State Department spokesperson says US does not doubt Pakistan's account that Minhas base was free of nuclear weapons.

Huma Imtiaz/afp August 16, 2012

WASHINGTON: The United States said on Thursday it was confident of the safety of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal after heavily armed militants stormed an air force base in clashes that left 10 people dead.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland offered condolences over the attack claimed by the Taliban. She said the United States had no reason to doubt Pakistan's account that the Minhas base was free of nuclear weapons.

"We have confidence that the government of Pakistan is well aware of the range of potential threats to its nuclear arsenal and has secured its nuclear arsenal accordingly," Nuland told reporters.

"We do talk about these issues and support Pakistani efforts to keep them secure -- we have for quite a long, long time. And we don't have any reason to be concerned at this moment," she said.

"Pakistanis have suffered more than their share at the hands of terrorists inside Pakistan, which speaks to our efforts to address this threat together," Nuland said.

Earlier the US Department of Defense (DoD) spokesperson had said that they have no indication that the Kamra airbase attack endangered Pakistan's nuclear assets.

Talking to The Express Tribune, Commander Bill Speaks, a spokesperson for the DoD, commended Pakistani security forces in repelling the attack at the PAF base in Kamra, however said that it was a concern, and that they were saddened by it.

"We would also commend Pakistani security forces for their efforts in repelling the attack," said the Commander.

Reports in the press had indicated that the PAF base in Kamra is home to Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.

Responding to a question on the safety of Pakistan's nuclear assets, Commander Speaks said, "We obviously work closely on a regular basis with our Pakistani counterparts to discuss the safety of their nuclear program, and it's our sense that the Pakistani government maintains good security around their nuclear arsenal. We have no indication that this particular attack endangered Pakistani nuclear assets."

Earlier on Thursday, Pakistan rejected US concerns that its nuclear assets may fall into the wrong hands, insisting the country’s strategic assets were safe and sound.

During the Foreign Ministry weekly press briefing, spokesperson Moazzam Ali Khan said, “Pakistan’s strategic assets are safe and sound and we have a robust command and control in place, so nobody should worry about the safety and security of our nuclear assets.”

The statements were in reaction to recent remarks made by US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who feared that Pakistan’s nuclear assets were in danger of falling into the hands of terrorists if terrorism was not controlled in the country.

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