In court papers released last month, the United States government openly alleges for the first time that Pakistan is seeking to develop thermonuclear weapons, and has attempted to purchase the materials necessary for their production on the black market, Global Security Newswire reports.
Pakistan is already a nuclear-armed country, though it operates outside the international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty framework. It is estimated to have a stockpile of approximately 100 weapons—the fastest growing stockpile in the world—though those are all uranium-based.
The new revelations represent the first official confirmation that Pakistan is seeking to build a thermonuclear, or hydrogen-based, weapon, which is about 1,000 times more powerful than a uranium weapon.
Only the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—France, Russia, China, the United States, and the United Kingdom—are known to possess hydrogen bombs.
Because Pakistan has not signed the non-proliferation treaty, it is mostly banned from the legal international nuclear trade, and has notoriously dabbled in the black market before.
The court papers stem from a Justice Department suit against a Chinese woman living in the United States who allegedly shipped to Pakistan high-tech paint coatings that will help the country develop thermonuclear weapons, despite U.S. laws banning such trade.
Before the woman, Xun Wang, was hired by Pittsburgh-based PPG Industries in 2006, the company had already shipped hundreds of gallons of the paint coating to Pakistan for use on an atomic reactor. A lengthy investigation by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review suggests Wang is “the fall woman” for what was essentially a company-wide practice.
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