Pakistan summons US envoy over Biden’s nuclear remarks

Pakistan’s foreign minister says the US ambassador to the country has been summoned after President Joe Biden said Pakistan “may be one of the most dangerous” countries in the world which had “nuclear weapons without any cohesion”.

The 79-year-old Biden made the comments in a speech at a reception of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Thursday, in which he also touched upon the war in Ukraine, China and domestic issues.

Speaking in the context of China and his relationship with President Xi Jinping, Biden said, “This is a guy [Xi Jinping] who understands what he wants but has an enormous, enormous array of problems. How do we handle that? 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.”

Pakistan’s foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said on Saturday during a news conference in the southern port city of Karachi that he was “surprised” by Biden’s statement. “I believe this is exactly the sort of misunderstanding that is created when there is a lack of engagement,” he added.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari
Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said he did not believe summoning the US Ambassador will negatively affect Islamabad’s relations with Washington DC [File: Andrew Harnik/AP Photo]
“If there is any question as to nuclear safety, then they should be directed to our neighbour India, who very recently accidentally fired a missile into Pakistani territory,” Bhutto-Zardari said, citing the firing of a supersonic missile into Pakistan on March 9.

The 34-year-old asserted that he did not think the decision to summon Ambassador Donald Blome will negatively affect Islamabad’s relations with the US.

“We will continue on the positive trajectory of engagements we are having so far,” he said.

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also rejected Biden’s remarks, asserting his country was a “responsible nuclear state”.

“We are proud that our nuclear assets have the best safeguards as per IAEA requirements. We take these safety measures with the utmost seriousness. Let no one have any doubts,” he tweeted.

The controversy came just more than a week after Pakistan’s military chief, General Qamar Bajwa, made a trip to the US and held high-level meetings with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.