New Delhi (CNSNews.com) - Pakistan denies US claims that it is planning to carry out new nuclear tests. A White House spokesman said Wednesday that there "have been indications of some preparations being made."
Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman Irtikhar Murshed called the US claim "baseless," saying Islamabad had declared a unilateral testing freeze.
Regional sources cited in recent media reports said that both Pakistan and India were planning to conduct new tests, but Clinton administration officials said they had no evidence that New Delhi intended to do so.
When India and Pakistan carried out their first nuclear test explosions in May 1998, the CIA came under fire for failing to predict the tests were about to happen. Both countries are still subject to some of the sanctions applied in response to the detonations.
Murshed also denied media reports that Pakistan had sent foreign secretary Inamul Haq to Beijing to seek China's support for what Pakistan might do if India were to carry out new tests.
He said Haq's visit was part of regular consultations between Pakistan and China, who maintain what he called an "all-weather friendship."
Earlier this month a Pakistan newspaper reported that both Pakistan and India were preparing to carry out more nuclear tests.
The Pakistan Observer said Islamabad was planning a nuclear detonation following intelligence reports that India would soon conduct a hydrogen bomb explosion in Pokhran.
According to the Observer, "Some spy satellites operating in the region had also picked up pictures showing both India and Pakistan's preparations in this regard."
The paper said that immediately after its test explosion, Pakistan would sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in an attempt to neutralize world reaction over the test.
U.S. Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering arrived in Pakistan Thursday on a four-day visit to lay the groundwork for resuming stalled dialogue on security and nuclear issues.
Pickering's visit will be the first high-level contact between the two countries since President Clinton's six-hour stopover in Pakistan on March 25.
"The agenda will cover the entire spectrum of Pakistan-U.S. relations as well as regional and global issues of mutual interest," Murshed of the foreign ministry told reporters.
Issues to be discussed would include Indo-Pakistan relations, the dispute between the two countries over the Himalayan region of Kashmir, and "global problems such as narcotics, terrorism and [nuclear] non-proliferation matters."
During his stay, Pickering may also meet the military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf.
In mid-June, Pakistan foreign minister Abdul Sattar is scheduled to visit Washington for more talks. Since the 1998 India/Pakistan nuclear tests, the sides have held eight rounds of talks.
Islamabad says it is prepared to participate in "non-discriminatory" efforts to achieve the global aim of non-proliferation.
Pakistan insists that it was India's nuclear tests that destabilized the security environment in South Asia.
Pakistan says it s nuclear deterrent now forms an indispensable part of its defense doctrine. It says its nuclear capability is solely for the purpose of deterring aggression against Pakistan.