Published On: Tue, Sep 6th, 2016

‘Pakistan stands with S. Korea on N. Korean nuclear threats’

By Yi Whan-woo

Pakistan is sensitive to North Korea’s nuclear threats posed on the Korean Peninsula and would never undermine South Korea’s security interests, according to a senior Pakistani government official.

Mohammad Kamran Akhtar, director general of disarmament at Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also denied allegations that his country has been selling nuclear materials to North Korea in a recent interview with The Korea Times.

The interview took place at the Pakistani Embassy in Seoul during Akhtar’s Korea visit as part of Pakistan’s bid to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

Khalid Banuri, director general of Pakistan’s Arms Control and Disarmament Affairs (ACDA) at the Strategic Plans Division, and Pakistani Ambassador to Korea Zahid Nasrullah Khan also joined the interview.

Ambassador Song Young-hwan, a Korean career diplomat, serves as the rotating chair of the 48-member NSG that seeks to contribute to the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons through controlled exports of nuclear materials.

Citing that the allegation against Pakistan was first raised by Asian News International (ANI), an Indian news agency, Akhtar claimed that its report was “politically motivated” amid Pakistan’s bid to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

India, Pakistan’s rival in South Asia, also has sought to become a member of the NSG despite China’s objection.

Calling South Korea “a close friend,” Akhtar said his country has been faithfully implementing U.N. Security Council Resolution 2270, which was imposed in March in response to North Korea’s fourth nuclear test in January and rocket launch the following month. He also said Pakistan has relevant details concerning its implementation with South Korea.

Concerning the NSG bid, he claimed Pakistan takes nuclear safety and security seriously in line with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regulations and that it has “declared adherence to NSG guidelines and aligned export controls with the best practices of the NSG.”

The following is an excerpt from the interview.

Q: What is the purpose of your visit to the Republic of Korea?

A: Pakistan has applied for membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). We are visiting to brief the Republic of Korea (ROK) on Pakistan’s credentials for NSG membership. The ROK is an important NSG member, a longtime development partner and close friend to Pakistan and also current NSG chair. As such, it is important for us that the ROK fully understands the merits of Pakistan’s application.

Pakistan has a significant civilian nuclear program, with the capability to produce several items and materials on the NSG Control Lists. We have declared adherence to NSG Guidelines and aligned our export controls with the best practices of the NSG. We take nuclear safety and security seriously and are following IAEA standards and guidance documents. It will be beneficial for the NSG to have a country with extensive nuclear supply capabilities in its fold and is following its export controls and nonproliferation policies and practices. We have briefed our Korean hosts in detail about these aspects of Pakistan’s case for joining the NSG.

Our meetings have been held in a friendly and cordial atmosphere.

Q: Please explain Pakistan’s efforts to implement U.N. Security Council Resolution 2270.

A: Pakistan has put in place legislative, regulatory and administrative measures to implement U.N. Security Council Resolutions on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). This includes steps for enforcing Resolution 2270. There is a high-powered committee chaired by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which includes all stakeholders including the Ministry of Commerce, Pakistan Customs and other relevant law enforcement agencies, State Bank of Pakistan and financial institutions, Ministries of Aviation and Shipping and Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources, to ensure that the sanctions regime is followed in letter and spirit. We have been sharing relevant details with the U.N. Security Council and ROK.

We are confident that effective implementation of Security Council Resolution 2270 is being ensured by Pakistan.

Q: Despite the Pakistani government’s denial, there have been media reports that Pakistan is linked to North Korea’s nuclear program. Why do you think those accusations are being made? How would you convince South Koreans that such accusations are false?

A: Certain recent reports originated from Asian News International (ANI), which is based in India. The sources of these reports were not mentioned which made them impossible to verify. The reports were timed with the NSG Plenary in Seoul which was scheduled to consider NSG applications of Pakistan and India. As such, these reports were clearly politically motivated.

In this age and time, any trade or cooperation between countries can be monitored by various technological means. It is not possible to carry out clandestine operations.

More importantly, there is no political or strategic logic for Pakistan to carry out such cooperation. It would be irrational for Pakistan to seek mainstreaming in the global nuclear nonproliferation regime while doing something which can severely tarnish its reputation. Pakistan stands to gain nothing from it. The ROK is an important development partner of Pakistan and we have a history of a very good relationship. We are therefore certain that the South Korean public will fully understand the motivation behind the recent unfounded media reports.

Q: Please kindly share your thoughts on whether South Korea should go for nuclear armament to better counter North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction.

A: Pakistan is fully sensitive to the ROK’s security challenges. For that reason we have consistently supported the establishment of a nuclear-weapons-free Korean Peninsula, which, we understand, is an objective to which the ROK fully subscribes. We are of the view that there is a need to pursue the objective through peaceful means in the context of the six-party talks. We hope that the latest measures by the international community will be able to convince the DPRK to also come to the table for restoring peace and stability to the Korean Peninsula.

Q: Are there any other messages you would like to underscore?

A: We would like to reiterate that Pakistan is a friend of the ROK and its people. We have historically been development partners. ROK businesses are active in Pakistan and we would like to see this partnership flourish further.

Pakistan is sensitive to ROK security concerns and we would never do anything which undermines the ROK’s security interests. We equally hope that the ROK, as the NSG chair, will play its due role in ensuring a merit based and nondiscriminatory consideration of Pakistan’s NSG application.

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