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Context of 'Shortly After May 1, 1981: Pakistani Dictator Orders A. Q. Khan to Prepare Cold Test; CIA Learns of Plan'

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A team of Pakistani scientists working under A. Q. Khan enriches a small quantity of uranium for the first time. Pakistan is enriching uranium in order to build a nuclear weapon, but will apparently not produce weapons-grade uranium for another three years (see (March-April 1981)). [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 98] The enrichment was performed using a P-1 centrifuge. Khan reveals that he has accomplished this to his wife Henny on April 4, 1978, so presumably it first happens some time shortly before this or on this day. The next day, Khan sends a memo on the enrichment to Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Agha Shahi, Pakistan’s ministers of finance and foreign affairs. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 51]

Entity Tags: Ghulam Ishaq Khan, Agha Shahi, Abdul Qadeer Khan

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

The US embassy in Delhi, India, sends a cable to Secretary of State Cyrus Vance about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. The cable states that Pakistan will be able to explode a bomb within “two or three years”—most likely by 1981. However, Pakistan’s progress will not be that fast and it will not actually manage to produce even a small amount of weapons-grade uranium until the spring of 1981 (see (March-April 1981)). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 86] The cable will be intercepted by India’s Research and Analysis Wing and shared with Israeli intelligence (see 1979).

Entity Tags: US Department of State, Cyrus Vance

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

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

May 28, 1998: Pakistan Tests Nuclear Bomb

Pakistan’s first nuclear  test take place underground but shakes the mountains above it.Pakistan’s first nuclear test take place underground but shakes the mountains above it. [Source: Associated Press]Pakistan conducts a successful nuclear test. Former Clinton administration official Karl Inderfurth later notes that concerns about an Indian-Pakistani conflict, or even nuclear confrontation, compete with efforts to press Pakistan on terrorism. [US Congress, 7/24/2003] Pakistan actually built its first nuclear weapon in 1987 but kept it a secret and did not test it until this time for political reasons (see 1987). In announcing the tests, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif declares, “Today, we have settled the score.” [New York Times, 5/4/2003]

Entity Tags: Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan, Karl Inderfurth

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, US International Relations, A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

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