The Obama administration has accused Pakistan of illegally modifying U.S.-made missiles to expand its ability to hit land-based targets, which would constitute a threat to India, The New York Times reported in Sunday editions.
Citing senior administration and Congressional officials, the Times said the charge came in late June through an unpublicized diplomatic protest to Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and other top Pakistani officials.
The accusation, made amid growing concerns about Pakistan's increasingly rapid conventional and nuclear weapons development, triggered a new round of U.S.-Pakistani tensions, the report added.
"There's a concerted effort to get these guys to slow down," the newspaper quoted a senior administration official as saying. "Their energies are misdirected," the official added.
Pakistan calls accusation ‘incorrect’
A senior Pakistani official called the accusation "incorrect," saying that the missile tested was developed by Pakistan, just as it had modified North Korean designs to build a range of land-based missiles that could strike India, according to the Times.
U.S. officials said the disputed weapon is a conventional one based on the Harpoon anti-ship missiles that were sold to Pakistan during the Reagan administration as a defensive weapon, the newspaper reported, but the charges come as the Obama administration is seeking Congressional approval for $7.5 billion in aid for Pakistan over the next five years.
The accusation stems from U.S. intelligence agencies' detection of a suspicious missile test on April 23 which was never announced by the Pakistanis and which appeared to give it a new offensive weapon, the Times said.
U.S. military and intelligence officials suspect Pakistan of modifying the Harpoon sold to them in the 1980s, which would violate the Arms Control Export Act.
Pakistan denied the charge and said it developed the missile, the Times said.
The missiles would bolster Pakistan's ability to threaten India, stoking fears of heating up the two nations' arms race.
"The focus of our concern is that this is a potential unauthorized modification of a maritime anti-ship defensive capability to an offensive land-attack missile," another senior administration official told the Times, speaking on condition of anonymity about classified information.
"When we have concerns, we act aggressively," the official added.