Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Greatest Nuclear Proliferation Threat? Korea? Iran? No, Try Pakistan.

It won't please just whoever is in power in Islamabad these days but the White House Coordinator for WMD Counterterrorism and Arms Control Gary Samore has pronounced Pakistan to be the greatest nuclear nonproliferation challenge facing the Obama administration.

"The thing that keeps me up at night? Pakistan. This is a country that is facing very serious internal and external security threats, has a dysfunctional political system [and] is seeking to expand its nuclear weapons program."

From the Global Security Newswire:

Samore said the United States has been "lucky" that nuclear war has not erupted between Pakistan and its atomically armed rival India, or that the civilian government in Islamabad has not lost control of its stockpile. However, "things could go very badly in South Asia very quickly," he said during a panel discussion at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. 

"We have extremely limited policy tools to affect that," he told the audience. "We can't occupy countries and hope to secure all of their nuclear material. That's really beyond our capacity."

Samore later admitted his nightmare scenario is a "toss-up" between Pakistan falling into political chaos and North Korea selling its nuclear material and expertise to other countries.

North Korea and Pakistan are among only a "handful" of nations that hold nuclear materials and face the threat of government collapse, Samore said. The challenges such states pose to the international nonproliferation regime, though, are "very, very dramatic," he argued.

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