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Pakistan Pushes Back At Biden Comment Questioning Country's Nuclear Safety, Summons Ambassador

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Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari: “When Pakistan has nuclear assets, we know how to keep them safe and secure." (file photo)

Pakistan summoned the U.S. ambassador on October 15 after President Joe Biden described Pakistan as "maybe one of the most dangerous nations in the world” and questioned the safety of its nuclear weapons.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari told a press conference in Karachi that Pakistan decided to summon Ambassador Donald Blome after Biden’s off-the-cuff comments on October 14 at a Democratic Party fund-raiser.

"The United States regularly meets with Pakistani officials," A U.S. State Department spokesperson in Washington told Reuters in a statement, adding: "As standard practice, we do not comment on the specifics of private diplomatic conversations."

Biden was discussing American leadership and the war in Ukraine, saying it’s a “totally different world” compared with the period after the end of the Cold War.

“Did any of you ever think you’d have a Russian leader…threatening the use of tactical nuclear weapons…. Did anybody think we’d be in a situation where China is trying to figure out its role relative to Russia and relative to India and relative to Pakistan?” Biden said.

Referring to Chinese President Xi Jinping, Biden said, “This is a guy who understands what he wants but has an enormous, enormous array of problems.”

“How do we handle that?” Biden continued. “How do we handle that relative to what’s going on in Russia, and what I think is maybe one of the most dangerous nations in the world: Pakistan? Nuclear weapons without any cohesion.”

The White House released a transcript of his remarks, touching off the response from Pakistan.

Zardari defended Pakistan's record on its handling of its nuclear assets, saying they are safe and secure under standards set by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

“When Pakistan has nuclear assets, we know how to keep them safe and secure, how to protect them as well,” Zardari said, adding that he discussed Biden’s comments with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who also rejected them.

Pakistan has proved itself to be a responsible nuclear state, and its nuclear program is managed through a technically sound command-and-control system, he said in a statement.

"We are proud that our nuclear assets have the best safeguards…. We take these safety measures with the utmost seriousness. Let no one have any doubts," he said on Twitter.

Zardari said the United States should be allowed an opportunity to explain its position and acknowledged that Biden's remarks were not made at an official function.

"I don't believe that this should negatively impact the relations between Pakistan and the United States," he said.

Sharif’s statement noted that it is Pakistan’s “sincere desire to cooperate with the U.S. to promote regional peace and security.”

Pakistan served as a front-line state in the U.S.-led war on terror following the 9/11 attacks, but relations soured after Al-Qaeda leader and 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden was found and killed by U.S. special operations forces at a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May 2011.

More recently, the United States has become wary of Pakistan's close partnership with China, as Beijing pushes ahead with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor program to invest in infrastructure.

Washington has repeatedly said China will reap most of the benefits, leaving Pakistan with unsustainable debt. The warnings have been brushed aside by Pakistan.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and AP

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