Washington: China provided Pakistan with 50kgs of enriched uranium and a bomb design in the late seventies after India tested its first nuke, according to the disgraced Pakistan scientist A Q Khan, who is hailed at home as Father of the Pakistan bomb. This Washington Post report based on a hitherto unpublished AQ Khan notes was promptly disputed by Pakistan government. ‘The report is not correct’, Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said in Islamabad.
The American daily obtained Khan’s notes Simon Henderson, a former Financial Times journalist who is presently with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. It also carried out its own reality check.
According to the notes, Chinese leader Mao Zedong and Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto
had struck a secret nuclear deal in 1976. As a part of the deal, 50 kg weapon-grade enriched uranium in five stainless-steel boxes was gifted to Pakistan along with a blueprint for a simple weapon that China had already tested.
Since A Q Khan ran a Nuclear Wal-Mart, he could have provided the Chinese design to his clients – Libya and even Iran.
Chinese officials have for a quarter-century denied helping any nation attain a nuclear capability. But serving and retired American officials said Khan’s accounts confirmed the U.S. intelligence community’s long-held conclusion that China provided such assistance, the Post said in the despatch by its reporters R. Jeffrey Smith and Joby Warrick.
State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said, ‘The United States has worked diligently and made progress with China over the past 25 years. As to what was or wasn’t done during the Reagan administration, I can’t say’
Khan said he along with then Foreign Secretary Agha Shahi and another official had worked out the details of uranium transfer when they travelled to Beijing for Mao’s funeral, the daily said.
Khan claims to have briefed three top Chinese nuclear weapons officials — Liu Wei, Li Jue and Jiang Shengjie — on how the European-designed centrifuges could swiftly aid China’s lagging uranium-enrichment programme. ‘Chinese experts started coming regularly to learn the whole technology’ from Pakistan. They were put up at a guest house built for them at his centrifuge research centre.
According to Khan, Pakistani experts helped to set up a centrifuge plant at Hanzhong in central China. ‘We sent 135 C-130 plane loads of machines, inverters, valves, flow meters, pressure gauges’. In return China sent Pakistan 15 tons of uranium hexafluoride (UF6), a feedstock for Pakistan’s centrifuges as Khan’s colleagues were having difficulty producing on their own. Khan said the gas enabled the laboratory to begin producing bomb-grade uranium in 1982. Chinese scientists helped the Pakistanis solve other nuclear weapons challenges, the report added.
Pakistan has never allowed the U.S. government to question Khan or other top Pakistani officials directly, prompting Congress to demand in legislation approved in September that future aid be withheld until Obama certifies that Pakistan has provided “relevant information from or direct access to Pakistani nationals” involved in past nuclear commerce.