“Three months ago, American intelligence officials examining satellite photographs of Pakistani nuclear facilities saw the first wisps of steam from the cooling towers of a new nuclear reactor. It was one of three plants being constructed to make fuel for a second generation of nuclear arms.
The message of those photos was clear: While Pakistan struggles to make sure its weapons and nuclear labs are not vulnerable to attack by Al Qaeda, the country is getting ready to greatly expand its production of weapons-grade fuel.
The Pakistanis insist that they have no choice. A nuclear deal that India signed with the United States during the Bush administration ended a long moratorium on providing India with the fuel and technology for desperately needed nuclear power plants.
Now, as critics of the arrangement point out, the agreement frees up older facilities that India can devote to making its own new generation of weapons, escalating one arms race even as President Obama and President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia sign accords to shrink arsenals built during the cold war.
Mr. Obama met with the leaders of India and Pakistan on Sunday, a day ahead of a two-day Washington gathering with 47 nations devoted to the question of how to keep nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists. In remarks to reporters about the summit meeting, Mr. Obama called the possibility of a terrorist organization obtaining a nuclear weapon â€œthe single biggest threat to U.S. security, both short-term, medium-term and long-term.â€
The summit meeting is the largest gathering of world leaders called by an American president since Franklin D. Roosevelt organized the 1945 meeting in San Francisco that created the United Nations.
…In private, Pakistani officials insist that the new plants are needed because India has the power to mount a lightning invasion with conventional forces.
India, too, is making new weapons-grade plutonium, in plants exempted under the agreement with the Bush administration from inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency. (Neither Pakistan nor India has signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.)
The Obama administration has endorsed the Bush-era agreement. Last month, the White House took the next step, approving an accord that allows India to build two new reprocessing plants. While that fuel is for civilian use, critics say it frees older plants to make weapons fuel."
2010-04-12 14:22:24 UTC