White House Scrambles After Biden Suggests Pakistan's Nukes Are 'Unsafe'
The White House is in damage control after rare criticism directed against US ally Pakistan by President Joe Biden has created an uproar and severe diplomatic tensions.
Biden said last Thursday that Pakistan was "one of the most dangerous nations in the world" because it has "nuclear weapons without any cohesion." The statement strongly suggesting Pakistan's nukes are insecure and therefore in potentially unsafe hands, according to an official transcript of remarks given at a Democratic Party fundraiser in Los Angeles.
On Monday the US administration sought to reassure its central Asian ally, saying the United States remains "confident" that Pakistan can secure its nuclear arsenal - a reversal of Biden's own words.
"The United States is confident of Pakistan's commitment and its ability to secure its nuclear assets," State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told a press briefing.
The statement comes two days after on Saturday Pakistan summoned the US ambassador in Islamabad to condemn the remarks. Biden's words even elicited an irate response from Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who said over the weekend:
"Pakistan is a responsible nuclear state and we are proud that our nuclear assets have the best safeguards as per IAEA requirements," Sharif tweeted, referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency. "We take these safety measures with the utmost seriousness. Let no one have any doubts."
Pakistan’s foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari expressed surprised at Biden's assessment, chalking it up to possible "misunderstanding". CNN noted that American diplomats in the region were frustrated by the confusion and political pressure unleashed from the Pakistani government in the wake of the comments.
Bhutto-Zardari described his feelings as follows: "I believe this is exactly the sort of misunderstanding that is created when there is a lack of engagement and luckily, we have embarked on a journey of engagement." Other top Pakistani officials voiced their anger too...
Strongly disagree with baseless judgement & reckless statement of @POTUS #JoeBiden regarding Pakistan's #nuclear programme. #Pakistan’s nuclear command & control systems are secure. Effects of two nuclear bombs dropped by #USA are still being felt today in Hiroshima & Nagasaki. pic.twitter.com/6XGBaJv4fH— Mohammad Sarwar (@ChMSarwar) October 15, 2022
This certainly isn't the first time that 'gaffe-prone' Biden, who has shown signs of senility for much of the past year or more, has inadvertently stirred tensions involving American allies while departing from official longstanding US doctrine.