The Bush administration acknowledged yesterday that it had long known about Pakistan's plans to build a large plutonium-production reactor, but it said the White House was working to dissuade Pakistan from using the plant to expand its nuclear arsenal.
"We discourage military use of the facility," White House spokesman Tony Snow said of a powerful heavy-water reactor under construction at Pakistan's Khushab nuclear site in Punjab state.
The reactor, which reportedly will be capable of producing enough plutonium for as many as 50 bombs each year, was brought to light on Sunday by independent analysts who spotted the partially completed plant in commercial-satellite photos. Snow said the administration had "known of these plans for some time."
The acknowledgment came as arms-control experts and some in Congress expressed alarm about a possible escalation of South Asia's arms race. Some also sharply criticized the administration for failing to disclose the existence of a facility that could influence an upcoming congressional debate over U.S. nuclear policy toward India and Pakistan.
This is a pretty troubling revelation-- it has huge implications for the region and our foreign policy, but the White House decided it was better to hide the information. After all, it could make Bush look bad.