NEW - July 27, 2011
Non-Papers and Demarches
U.S. and British Combined to Delay Pakistani Nuclear Weapons Program in 1978-1981, Declassified Documents Show
NEW - July 27, 2011
American 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. encouragement.
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 available.
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