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Context of 'June 1980: State Department Official Tells Congress US Has ‘Absolute Assurances’ Pakistan Will Not Develop Bomb'

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US Undersecretary of State for Security Assistance James Buckley tells the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs that he has received “absolute assurances” from Pakistan that it will not develop or test a nuclear warhead. Buckley will make a similar statement to the House Foreign Affairs Committee in September (see September 1981). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 88] However, Pakistan is pressing ahead with its nuclear weapons program (see Shortly After May 1, 1981) and the current Reagan administration has indicated it will turn a blind eye (see April 1981).

Entity Tags: Governmental Affairs Committee, James Buckley

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

At some time in 1981, Pakistan begins digging some tunnels under the Ras Koh mountains. The work is apparently related to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, which begins preparation for a cold test of a nuclear weapon this year (see Shortly After May 1, 1981). This work is noticed by both India and Israel, who also see other signs that work is continuing on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. Tunnels in these mountains will be used when Pakistan tests nuclear weapons in 1998 (see May 28, 1998). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 86, 275]

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Pakistan produces its first weapons-grade uranium. The sample is produced by a team led by scientist A. Q. Khan that is working on building a nuclear weapon. Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will later call this “a colossal breakthrough on the path to manufacturing a nuclear bomb.” Khan informs Pakistani dictator Muhammad Zia ul-Haq of the breakthrough. Zia then visits the facility where Khan works, renaming it after Khan in May. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 84] Khan had first enriched uranium three years previously, but that apparently had not been weapons grade (see Shortly Before or on April 4, 1978).

Entity Tags: Abdul Qadeer Khan, Muhammad Zia ul-Haq

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Pakistan Foreign Minister Agha Shahi and General Khalid Arif visit Washington to discuss the new Reagan administration’s plans for the Soviet-Afghan War. The new administration is aware that Pakistani support is crucial if it wants to keep up US aid to anti-communist fighters in Afghanistan. However, the Pakistanis impose a number of conditions on their participation, one of which is that the US does not complain about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons development program. According to former State Department official Dennis Kux, Shahi and Arif tell US Secretary of State Alexander Haig that Pakistan will not compromise on its nuclear program. Haig replies that if Pakistan conducts a nuclear test, this will cause trouble in Congress and “make it difficult to cooperate with Pakistan in the way that the Reagan administration hoped.” However, if Pakistan does not perform a test, the nuclear program “need not become a centerpiece of the US-Pakistani relationship.” State Department South Asia specialist James Coon will comment that there is “a tacit understanding that the Reagan administration could live with Pakistan’s nuclear program as long as Islamabad did not explode a bomb.” [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 118, 248] Over the next few months, Undersecretary of State for Security Assistance James Buckley and other US officials travel back and forth between Washington and Pakistan, in the words of authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, “refining the back-channel deal on the Pakistan nuclear program,” and reassuring the Pakistanis that the Reagan administration will allow their work on the bomb to continue. On one occasion, Arif meets Buckley and they discuss the sale of F-16 fighters to Pakistan. Arif then raises the nuclear issue, but, Arif will later say, “The Americans suggested there was no need to talk about Pakistan’s [nuclear] program any more.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 88-89]

Entity Tags: Khalid Mahmud Arif, James Buckley, Dennis Kux, Alexander M. Haig, Jr., Agha Shahi, James Coon

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Pakistani dictator Muhammad Zia ul-Haq orders nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan to prepare for a cold test of a nuclear weapon. The instruction is given shortly after Khan tells Zia that he has managed to enrich uranium to weapons grade (see (March-April 1981)), and after Zia visits the facility where Khan works, re-naming it after him. The CIA will soon learn of this instruction. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 84-85, 90]

Entity Tags: Abdul Qadeer Khan, Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Reagan administration official James Buckley.Reagan administration official James Buckley. [Source: Biographical Directory of the US Congress]James Buckley, an undersecretary for security in the Reagan administration, tells the House Foreign Affairs Committee that Pakistan is unlikely to progress with its nuclear weapons program if it receives US aid. He will repeat the argument in the New York Times three months later: “In place of the ineffective sanctions on Pakistan’s nuclear program imposed by past administrations, we hope to address through conventional means the sources of insecurity that prompt a nation like Pakistan to seek a nuclear capability in the first place.” Len Weiss, an aide to anti-proliferation Senator John Glenn, will later comment, “It seemed highly unconventional to reward a country bent on becoming nuclear with extra funding and jets.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 82, 88]

Entity Tags: Len Weiss, House Foreign Affairs Committee, James Buckley

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

The US Senate approves an aid package for Pakistan worth $3.2 billion. This makes Pakistan the third largest recipient of US assistance after Israel and Egypt, and is in response to Pakistani support for the anti-Soviet resistance in Afghanistan. The aid is granted despite the fact that Pakistan has a nuclear weapons program, as Congress is assured that the aid is conditional on Pakistan stopping this program (see September 1981). However, Pakistan does not do so and informs the Reagan administration of this (see Mid-December 1981). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 89] Due to an amendment introduced by Congressman Stephen Solarz (D-NY), aid for any country that detonates a nuclear device will be cut off. Author Dennis Kux will note that this makes “the ‘tacit’ understanding about Pakistan’s not testing (see April 1981)… a legal requirement for US aid.” [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 118-119]

Entity Tags: Dennis Kux, Stephen Solarz

Timeline Tags: US International Relations, A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

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