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From: National Security Archive <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Wed, Jul 27, 2011 at 4:17 PM
Subject: U.S. and British Combined to Delay Pakistani Nuclear Weapons
Program in 1978-1981
To: [log in to unmask]

National Security Archive Update, July 27, 2011

Newly Declassified "Nodis" State Department Cables Disclose Parallel U.S.
and British Efforts to Delay the Pakistani Nuclear Weapons Program

300 U.S. Demarches Sent to Nuclear Exporters during 1978-1981 in Attempt to
Halt Pakistani Nuclear Purchases

U.S.-Pakistani Relations Reached "Lowest Ebb" with U.S. Encouragement to
France to Cancel Reprocessing Contract, said General Zia

Washington, D.C., July 27, 2011 - The United States and Great Britain
undertook a secret diplomatic campaign in the late 1970s to prevent a major
nuclear proliferation threat -- Pakistan's attempted covert purchasing of
"gray area" technology for its nuclear weapons program -- according to
recently declassified "NODIS" (no distribution) State department telegrams
published today by the National Security Archive.

The documents, released through a mandatory declassification review request,
do not mention the name A. Q. Khan, but already in late 1978 London and
Washington were discovering the footprints of secret Pakistani purchasing
organizations that were seeking the technology needed to produce fissile
material -- plutonium and highly enriched uranium -- for nuclear weapons. In
November 1978, the United Kingdom and the United States sent complementary
demarches to other members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in efforts
to "delay" the Pakistani nuclear program by denying it access to sensitive
technology and equipment.

The U.S. demarche was the first of about 300 sent over the next three years.
In its first such demarche, Washington was trying to halt a secret Pakistani
effort to continue a plutonium reprocessing facility at Chashma, which the
French had begun but had backed out of, partly in response to U.S.

The recently released State Department records were once closely-held
telegrams in the "NODIS" category. "NODIS" documents are of such high
sensitivity that they can only be read by a limited number of individuals
with a specific "need to know." Distribution and copying are strictly
controlled by the State Department's Executive Secretary, unlike the SIPRNet
system exploited by Wikileaks, which allowed officials at far lower levels
to decide on their accessibility.

Among the highlights of this collection of documents:

* After the French government cancelled the project at Chashma, they learned
that the Pakistanis had begun a secret effort to acquire technology to
complete the plant.

* The U.S. role in cancelling the reprocessing plant caused resentment at
high levels of the Pakistani government with military dictator General
Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq asserting that U.S.-Pakistani relations were at their
"lowest ebb."

* State Department officials wanted to "move forward to restore more normal
relations" because they worried about the danger of a "disintegrating or
radicalized" Pakistan and Islamabad's loss of confidence in Washington.
Nevertheless, the restoration of economic and military aid could be
jeopardized by evidence of a Pakistani nuclear program.

* In response to Pakistani efforts to acquire inverters (or frequency
converters), a "gray area" technology used to regulate the speed of
centrifuges for producing highly-enriched uranium, the British sent a
demarche to members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group to seek agreement on
preventing sales.

* Reports that Pakistan was trying to complete the Chashma facility led
Washington to send demarches to nuclear suppliers so they could apply
appropriate export controls. Accompanying the demarche was a "non-paper"
about Pakistani nuclear intentions.

* According to an Arms Control and Disarmament Agency [ACDA] report, during
the next 3 years, the State Department sent about 300 more demarches to
European, East Asian, and Middle Eastern governments as part of a continuous
effort to "delay the program" by halting the sale of sensitive exports. ACDA
asserted that the resulting tighter controls caused a "two-year delay" in
the uranium enrichment program.

The State Department did not release the entire set of documents that the
Archive requested, sending some for review to other agencies. These may be
CIA reports describing the overseas purchasing activities of Pakistani
officials.  If the CIA declassifies any of them, we will make them

Read the complete posting on the Archive's web site.


THE NATIONAL SECURITY ARCHIVE is an independent non-governmental research
institute and library located at The George Washington University in
Washington, D.C. The Archive collects and publishes declassified documents
acquired through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). A tax-exempt public
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Michael Balter
Contributing Correspondent, Science
Adjunct Professor of Journalism,
New York University

Email:  [log in to unmask]

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