ISLAMABAD - News reports about Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, including questions about its safety, are part of a malicious campaign that is counter-productive to efforts to defeat terrorism, a Pakistani spokesman said on Thursday.
As Pakistan battles a growing Taliban insurgency, reports in U.S. media have raised the nightmare scenario of its nuclear weapons falling into militant hands.
Pakistan has repeatedly stressed its weapons are safe.
This week, the New York Times reported U.S. lawmakers were told in confidential briefings that Pakistan was rapidly adding to its nuclear capability, stoking fears in Congress about diversion of U.S. funds.
We consider this ... a malicious campaign against Pakistan which in our view is contrary to facts, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit told a regular briefing, referring to the reports.
It is counter-productive to the collective objective of defeating militants and terrorism and also raises serious doubts in the minds of the people of Pakistan about the ... objective of those engaging in negative propaganda.
Many Pakistanis believe the United States is secretly intent on confiscating Pakistan's nuclear weapons although U.S. officials, including President Barack Obama, have said they believe Pakistan's weapons are safe.
Analysts say that while the Taliban have almost no chance of ever being in a position to launch a nuclear warhead, there is a danger militants could exploit chaos in Pakistan to hijack or steal enough radioactive material to build a dirty bomb.
When asked if Pakistan was expanding its nuclear arsenal, Basit did not respond directly, but said Pakistan was determined to maintain a minimum nuclear deterrence as nuclear-armed rival India beefed up its conventional forces.
Nuclear deterrence is the cornerstone of Pakistan's security and enjoys complete national consensus, Basit said. We are determined to protect the credibility of our nuclear deterrence at the minimum possible level and that we will continue to do.
Basit said Pakistan's nuclear deterrence was indispensable for stability in South Asia.
We have noticed that there have been acquisitions and sophisticated conventional weaponry has been supplied to our neighbor. This in a way disturbs the conventional balance between our two countries, he said.
Pakistan tested nuclear weapons in May 1998 in a tit-for-tat response to India days after it tested the weapons. The neighbors have fought three wars since 1947.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday the Obama administration was confident Pakistan would not use a planned increase in U.S. aid to strengthen its nuclear arsenal.
We are very clear, very firm and quite convinced that none of our aid will in any way affect the efforts of Pakistan regarding their nuclear stockpile, Clinton told U.S. lawmakers without saying whether Pakistan was expanding its arsenal.
The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs on Wednesday approved tripling U.S. economic aid to Pakistan to about $1.5 billion a year for the next five years, including money for schools, the judiciary, parliament and law enforcement.