US also helped Pakistan secure the weapons: Admiral Mike Mullen.—AP photo

WASHINGTON: Pakistan’s control over its nuclear weapons appears strong enough to prevent the militants from accessing them, says the US military chief.

A transcript released on Friday quoted Admiral Mike Mullen was telling reporters that the US also had helped Pakistan secure the weapons.

“I am as comfortable as I can be that they have taken significant steps, including steps in recent years to improve the security with respect to their nuclear weapons,” he said.

“There have been investments made by our government in improving security, not through the Department of Defence, but through the Department of Energy to improve security through the last several years,” he added.

Over the years, the US had seen Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal become “physically more secure”, said the admiral.

“We’ve seen the training improve” for personnel entrusted with handling and guarding the weapons. Pakistan also had introduced a “personnel reliability programme” for its nuclear security forces that involved “a very difficult screening process”, Mr Mullen said at a round-table meeting at his Pentagon office.

The Pakistani programme, he said, was similar to the one the US was using, which included regular vetting of military personnel as a con-dition for their contin-ued access to the atomic arsenal.

There were also a number of strict rules they “have to continue compliance with”, Admiral Mullen said, suggesting that further public elaboration could heighten security risks. “I know that they have invested a great deal, improved their procedures and they take it very seriously,” he said.

Another senior US official, Principal Deputy Defence Under-Secretary for Policy James Miller, recently told a congressional panel that the US had “offered any assistance that Pakistan might desire with respect to [the] means for security of nuclear weapons”.

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