U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday described Pakistan as “one of the most dangerous nations in the world,” claiming its nuclear weapons are “without any cohesion.”
According to a transcript of an address he delivered to a Democratic congressional campaign committee reception in Los Angeles—released by the White House on Friday—Biden discussed today’s “different” world, with an emphasis on Russia and China. In the context of the “enormous, enormous array of problems” facing Chinese President Xi Jinping, he said: “And what I think is maybe one of the most dangerous nations in the world: Pakistan. Nuclear weapons without any cohesion.”
Claiming that the proliferation of fake news on the internet had made it very difficult for people to make distinctions between fact and fiction, he said he believed the world—including America’s enemies—were now looking at Washington to figure out how to respond to the crises unfolding globally.
“Folks, you know, there’s a lot at stake. But I’m absolutely convinced we have the capacity—we have the capacity to lead the world to a place that it’s never been,” he said. “Did any of you ever think you’d have a Russian leader, since the Cuban Missile Crisis, threatening the use of tactical nuclear weapons that would—could only kill three, four thousand people and be limited to make a point?” he said, referring to a recent statement by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“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?” he continued.
Biden’s statement comes within a week of a high-profile visit to Washington by Pakistan Army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa during which he met the U.S. secretary of defense and the deputy secretary of state. Seen as an attempt by Islamabad to redefine ties with the U.S., it followed the 77th session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, during which Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif met Biden and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari held several meetings with senior U.S. officials.
As recently as Tuesday, in a regular press briefing, U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price had said the country “value our long-standing cooperation with Pakistan.”
Addressing a press conference on Saturday, Energy Minister Khurram Dastagir-Khan rejected Biden’s statement about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons as “baseless.” Stressing that international agencies had verified Pakistan’s atomic deterrent “several times,” he said the country’s command and control system was completely secure.
Leaders of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, who have repeatedly alleged the U.S. instigated Imran Khan’s ouster as prime minister, have separately demanded an apology from the U.S. president over his remarks, with former human rights minister Shireen Mazari saying a state that was an “irresponsible superpower with nukes” had no right to criticize anyone else. She also slammed the incumbent government and Pakistan Army for not responding to “Biden’s tirade.”
There has, as yet, been no reaction from Pakistan’s Foreign Office.