The United States has expressed its “confidence” in Pakistan’s ability to secure its nuclear arsenal, days after President Joe Biden called the country one of the most dangerous nations in the world and said it had “nuclear weapons without any cohesion”.
In a press briefing on Monday, state department spokesperson Vedant Patel said the US has always viewed a secure and prosperous Pakistan as critical to US interests and that it was confident of Pakistan’s commitment and its ability to secure its nuclear assets”.
The remarks came after a meeting between Derek Chollet, state department counsellor, and Pakistan envoy to the US, Masood Khan.
In a tweet after the meeting, Chollet wrote that he met the ambassador to discuss the “longstanding partnership” between the two countries and to further grow ties.
Discussed with @CounselorDOS ways to build further resilience in #PAKUS ties and boost strategic trust. High level visits, people to people exchanges and effective communication would continue to fortify relations. Thanked Mr Chollet for his constructive role. https://t.co/19sfk0LHT4
— Masood Khan (@Masood__Khan) October 18, 2022
Khan responded the next day, writing that he and Chollet discussed “ways to build further resilience in #PAKUS ties and boost strategic trust.”
Neither Pakistan’s foreign ministry nor its information ministry responded to Al Jazeera’s inquiries regarding the US statement.
Pakistan had summoned the US ambassador following remarks by Biden during a speech at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on October 13.
In the midst of discussing China’s President Xi Jinping and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Biden said: “And what I think is maybe one of the most dangerous nations in the world: Pakistan. Nuclear weapons without any cohesion.”
Two days later, Pakistan’s foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said Pakistan had summoned the US ambassador to demand an explanation of Biden’s statement.
“We are fully capable of safeguarding our nuclear weapons, and they meet every international standard in accordance with the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] as far as security and safety is concerned,” Bilawal told a press conference in the southern city of Karachi.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also rejected Biden’s assertions, calling them “factually incorrect and misleading”.
“Over the past decades, Pakistan has proven to be a most responsible nuclear state, wherein its nuclear programme is managed through a technically sound and foolproof command and control system,” Sharif said in a statement.
In recent years, Pakistan has gradually established closer economic and defence ties with regional ally China, one of the US’s main geopolitical rivals.
However, the last few months have seen a gradual increase in interaction between senior officials of Pakistan and the US.
Both Sharif and Bhutto-Zardari travelled to the US in September, and Pakistan’s army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, visited Washington, DC, this month.
US officials, including Chollet, visited Pakistan in the aftermath of recent floods in early September.
The floods killed more than 1,700 people and affected some 33 million. The US has provided $66m in aid so far.
After not having an ambassador to Pakistan for four years, the US also appointed Donald Blome earlier this year, seen as many as a shift in attitude.