Canada’s nuclear role

Tom Adams
Globe and Mail
October 11, 2006

A response to Doug Saunders’ article for the Globe and Mail

Re: Test puts nuclear salesman in harsh light
(Original article appears below)

When considering the role played by Pakistani nuclear official Abdul Qadeer Khan in assisting North Korea’s nuclear-energy and weapons program, Canadians should examine the assistance we have provided in this evil chain of events.

Canada supplied Pakistan’s first reactor. Approximately 50 Pakistani nuclear trainees have been schooled at facilities of the federal nuclear promoter AECL, the Pickering reactors in Ontario, and the Point Lepreau reactor in New Brunswick. Trainees include key Khan associate Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, a pioneer of Pakistan’s nuclear-weapons program and a vocal admirer and material supporter of the Taliban who was arrested in Pakistan in 2001 on charges related to nuclear trafficking.

Restricted U.S. nuclear technologies were procured in Canada in 1980 by Pakistani nuclear officials and re-exported. Pakistan continues today as a long-standing participant in the Candu Owners Group, a nuclear-technology-sharing alliance the Canadian government initiated.

Canada’s policies on nuclear-technology exports usually rely on the assurances of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), both of which reflect the conflicted mandates of encouraging but controlling nuclear technology, although Canada has a long history of technology consultation with countries that have not signed the NPT, including India and Pakistan.

Pakistan and North Korea exploited the encourage/control conflict embedded in international controls to gain access to nuclear technology. Iran is following this approach. China is getting nuclear aid from Canada today under the same rules.

Until a safer approach to nuclear technology is developed, Canada should cut off all nuclear-technology exports and nuclear training of foreign officials, at least for countries that do not have stable democracies.

Tom Adams, Executive Director, Energy Probe

Test puts nuclear salesman in harsh light

by Doug Saunders, Globe and Mail, October 10, 2006

In the 1990s, as hundreds of thousands of North Koreans were dying of starvation while their regime withdrew further from the world, a chubby, jolly man made a series of flights on Pakistani military jets from Islamabad to Pyongyang.

The flights carried huge sums of money out of impoverished North Korea and delivered centrifuges, nuclear raw materials and instructions on making atomic bombs. The man who later confessed to enriching himself in the exchanges, and to selling nuclear secrets to Iran and Libya as well, was Abdul Qadeer Khan – a national hero in Pakistan, responsible for giving his own country a nuclear weapon.

The end product of Mr. Khan’s “nuclear supermarket” was delivered to the world Monday in North Korea’s first atomic explosion.

In detonating the bomb, Pyongyang almost certainly used technology it acquired from Pakistan. It has placed a harsh spotlight on Mr. Khan, who lives a comfortable life in Islamabad after being pardoned by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in 2004. He is confined to one of his several palatial homes, officially under house arrest but with full access to his vast fortune.

And it has shone an equally harsh light on the relationship between Pakistan and the United States, since Mr. Khan’s illicit sales to rogue states took place during a period when Washington was tolerating Islamabad’s nuclear ambitions. The United States has never sought punishment or sanctions against Mr. Khan or Pakistan for arming North Korea, even though the Central Intelligence Agency had reportedly been watching his activities since the 1970s – a period in which he built a vast business empire based on his nuclear sales to authoritarian states.

Pakistan has refused to allow Mr. Khan to be questioned. Asked Tuesday whether Washington has been interrogating Mr. Khan in the wake of the North Korean blast, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said: “I don’t know who’s talked to him lately. But he’s out of business, and that’s a good thing for nonproliferation efforts around the world.”

Mr. McCormack explained that Pakistan is not being blamed for nuclear proliferation in countries that were once described as the “axis of evil” because General Musharraf’s regime has co-operated with the U.S. war against terrorism.

“In terms of Pakistan, you have a country that has made the strategic decision to ally itself with those who are promoting freedom and democracy around the world,” the spokesman said. “. . . In the North Korea regime, you don’t have that. You have a regime that is actually going in the other direction.”

Pakistani officials also denied any connection between the North Korean blast and Mr. Khan’s black-market sales to the communist regime.

But Mr. Khan’s nuclear bazaar took place within the highest reaches of the Pakistani state; his company, Khan Research Laboratories, seemed to conduct sales for years with the knowledge and assent of the government in Islamabad.

Gen. Musharraf acknowledges in his newly published memoir, In the Line of Fire, that Mr. Khan’s activities aroused his suspicions in 1999.

“I received a report suggesting that some North Korean nuclear experts, under the guise of missile engineers, had arrived at Khan Research Laboratories and were being given secret briefings on centrifuges,” he writes. “It was becoming clearer by now that A. Q. [Khan] was not ‘part of the problem,’ but the problem itself.”

The nature of that problem was known to the United States and Pakistan in the 1970s, when Mr. Khan, a young metallurgist born in Bhopal, India, was hired by a uranium-enrichment laboratory in the Netherlands. A Dutch court later found that he had passed top-secret documents to Pakistani spies on several occasions, and Dutch officials have said that both the CIA and the Dutch government were aware of his theft of secrets as early as 1975. In 1976, he abruptly quit, taking blueprints for a uranium centrifuge with him. He was immediately named the head of Pakistan’s nuclear-weapons program.

His private company was deeply enmeshed with the state’s nuclear program. While its initial purpose was to procure nuclear-weapons components from other countries, it simultaneously became a tool for Mr. Khan’s personal enrichment, and the nuclear technology moved in both directions.

In the early 1990s, Mr. Khan reportedly made a deal to buy North Korea’s medium-range ballistic missiles, which Pakistan needed to carry the atomic bombs it was on the verge of developing. In exchange, Pakistan provided nuclear-weapons expertise. He also reportedly received payments for these deals.

The CIA monitored him throughout this time. But the United States declined to act, according to Khan biographer Gordon Corera, because Pakistan was considered a vital ally in the Cold War, and because nuclear proliferation was considered a reasonable price to pay for strong alliances.

It was only after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that U.S. officials asked Gen. Musharraf to put a stop to Mr. Khan’s sales. Even then – and even now – no further sanction was considered necessary.

This year, Mr. Khan began receiving treatment for prostate cancer at a private cancer hospital owned by Imran Khan, the cricket star turned politician. The former athlete said he provided the expensive treatment free of charge, explaining: “Whatever allegations Qadeer Khan is facing, he is our hero.”


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