Asia’s ‘Axis of Evil’ Flexes Its Muscles
covering burma and southeast asia
Tuesday, July 23, 2024


Asia’s ‘Axis of Evil’ Flexes Its Muscles

By AUNG ZAW Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Gen Shwe Mann (left) and Gen Kim Kyok-sik sign a memorandum of understanding at the defense ministry in Pyongyang.

Burma’s burning ambition to acquire modern missile technology and to upgrade its conventional weapons is no longer a secret, and if left unchecked, could pose a destabilizing threat to regional stability.

Thailand, its most prominent historical enemy, should be concerned—its military leaders would not like to see a Burma in possession of missiles that could easily lead to a tit-for-tat arms race. Also, of course, there’s the generals’ chronic fear of the West, heightened last year when foreign navy vessels showed up off the Burmese shore in an effort to deliver relief items and water to cyclone victims in the Irrawaddy delta region.

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Since then, Burmese leaders have increasingly been looking for a source of medium range missiles, sophisticated anti-aircraft and radar systems to deter imagined external threats.

Gen Thura Shwe Mann, the regime’s No 3 man, made a secret visit to North Korea in November 2008, no doubt with a shopping list for the above items.

Shwe Mann, chief of staff of the army, navy and air force, and the coordinator of Special Operations, made a secret, seven day visit to Pyongyang on November 22, travelling there via Kunming, China.

The 17-member, high-level delegation was given an important sightseeing visit to Pyongyang and Myohyang, where secret tunnels have been built into the mountains to store and shield jet aircraft, missiles, tanks and nuclear and chemical weapons.

Accompanied by air defense chief Lt-Gen Myint Hlaing, Maj-Gen Hla Htay Win, Maj-Gen Khin Aung Myint, Maj-Gen Thein Htay, Maj-Gen Mya Win and senior officials from heavy industries, the delegation was clearly on a mission to cement stronger military ties with the reclusive, hermit state.

On November 27, Shwe Mann and Gen Kim Kyok-sik, chief of general staff, signed a MoU, officially formalizing the military cooperation between Burma and North Korea.

North Korea will reportedly build or supervise the construction of some Burmese military facilities, including tunnels and caves in which missiles, aircraft and even naval ships could be hidden. Burma will also receive expert training for its special forces, air defense training, plus a language exchange program between personnel in the two armed forces.

Burmese army sources in Naypyidaw confirmed to The Irrawaddy that the secret arms-procurement mission covered most of the generals’ wish list.

During his seven-day visit, Shwe Mann, who is presumed to be the heir apparent to take over Burma’s armed forces, visited radar and jamming units in Myohyang, a highly sophisticated anti-aircraft unit, air force units and a computerized command control system in Pyongyang. 

The delegation also visited a surface-to-surface (SCUD) missile factory, partially housed in tunnels, on the outskirts of Pyongyang to observe missile production. Since the late 1980s, North Korea has sold hundreds of SCUD-type missiles and SCUD production technology to Iran, Syria and Egypt.

The SCUD-D missile, with a range of 700 kilometers, and SCUD-E missile, with a range of 1,500 kilometers, could easily intimidate Burma’s neighbors, including Thailand. It is believed that Burma already has deployed six radar air defense systems along the Thai-Burmese border.

During the visit, the Burmese were also particularly interested in short-range 107 mm and 240 mm multi-rocket launchers—a multipurpose missile defense system in case of a foreign invasion, analysts said.

Also of great interest was the latest in anti-tank, laser-guided missile technology that can be deployed within an infantry division. Defense analysts say Burma has already purchased short and medium- range missiles from North Korea under a barter deal.

It is not known if regime leaders have already put in an order for SCUD-D or the more powerful SCUD-F missiles, with a range of 3,000 kilometers. To suppress ethic insurgents, the regime doesn’t need such sophisticated weapons, but Burma’s strong interest in missile, radar, AWAC air defense systems, GPS communication jammers and search radar indicates that Naypyidaw’s leaders envision both defensive and offensive capabilities.

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peace Wrote:
How about the Thailand? Thailand possess F-16 Fighters, missiles and other sophisticated weapons. This also could easily lead to a tit-for-tat arms race in the region. Don't you think Thailand is also a threat to regional and global security? If you do, then all countries are threatening to world security.

Gary Wrote:
" No one will take you and 'The Irrawaddy' seriously"
Okkar, you're dead wrong. The junta's men are constantly on these webpages. I wonder why?

Pwa Gyi Wrote:
This is another story made up by Aung Zaw, who is deliberatly trying to link up the so-called nuclear-armed North Korea and the SPDC junta. It is, in fact, one of his theories cojured up during "day-dreams in exile".

The SPDC has been digging tunnels at different locations in the country since 1997-98. It has built-up its army through dealing with many countries, not just North Korea, but European countries through various brokers. Both North and South Korea have transported arms and ammunition to the SPDC many times.

Why does he write such story only now??

In fact, it is a simple attempt to divert the interest from many other hard news stories, such as the deteriorating situation of the remenant of KNU/KNLA and pro-democracy forces.

As a news agency, hopefully free from any attached strings, 'The Irrawaddy' should be more focused on news and journalism perspectives, rather than putting bias and day-dreaming theories to its readers.

Oparlay Wrote:
It is an interesting and serious story, but I am amused to read the comments, which reduces the seriousness of the issue. Some people sound really upset, which is interesting and amusing; some really praise with flowery words, which brings me laughter; and some are easy going, which I like the most. It's a good contest! I guess it is called freedom, but plesae don't take it personally.

SY Alam Wrote:
Do they think they can shoot down F16s & F17s with Korean made missile? Is this possible? People are hungry in Burma but they are buying SCUD missiles from N.Korea,are they crazy? Are they going to feed people mud and missiles? We don't need missiles , we need food.

KKK Wrote:
To j.s: I got these pictures from Okkar.
To Okkar: Whatever you said, we don't care. We will continue to support Irrawaddy. The whole world is behind the Irrawaddy. Articles on Irrawaddy are more reliable and credible than your generals's media. We can express our true emotions, feelings and thoughts on Irrawaddy. How many Burmese people can express their true feelings, emotions and thoughts on your father generals's media. You can't even express your true feelings on your general's media. Don't just argue, Okkar. Please argue well.

maungnaylin Wrote:
In my opinion, Myanma should buy more updated weapons to defend their fatherland from any foreign invaders. However, they need to save foreign currency for future use. it does not rain everyday; the sun is not always shining. Therefore, the Myanmar government should think before they spend their all money on buying the weapons. We should use this money for education, health and basic infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and power house to make electricity. Myanmar needs these investments to have stable growth. Without this investment, Myanmar cannot become a rice bowl. Furthermore, Myanmar should invest more in technology for long-term economic growth.

j.s Wrote:
Wow, where do those pictures come from? My hat off to The Irrawaddy.

George Than Setkyar Heine Wrote:
Arms buildups would not guarantee Than Shwe's security nor survival any more than hiding in his lair at Naypyidaw.
Even the mighty US is employing peaceful means to settle differences these days, knowing everlasting peace and security do not come from barrels of guns nor use of nuclear weapons.
Only peace guarantees today's humanity to survive and thrive.
Even China is pursuing a policy of peaceful co-existence though striving for world hegemony on its own, ganging up with rogues and thugs like Burma and elsewhere.
Arms and weapons do not make a nation great, a lesson that should serve notice to Than Shwe and his thugs also.
Than Shwe is nobody today because no sane person in his right senses likes or supports him.
Daw Suu is going global because not only the people of Burma but also the world love and support her today.
A people's love and adoration make a person great, like Daw Suu and leaders who need the people's support and trust, lest the monk murderer fails to take note today.

Matt Wrote:
Yes indeed, the Burmese junta seems to be digging in for the long haul. And as with the North Korean dictatorship they are propped up by the Communist materialist dictators in China.

Peter Hunt Wrote:
The intelligence info is probably correct. The regime initially was interested in a short-midrange SCUD missile factory from NK. Maybe they have changed their minds and just buy the ready-made missiles and air defense system. The NK air defense system was not fully tested, except the technology was from either Russia or China.
The question is, what are we going to do with this information?
There is no need for signing contracts between NK and Burma. Neither regime is trustworthy, anyway.

Missile Wrote:
Thanks for "Asia’s ‘Axis of Evil’ Flexes Its Muscles." That's got lots of knowledge. Thanks Irrawaddy. Hopefully, more comes soon.

Okkar Wrote:
I wonder how Aung Zaw come up with his crackpot "theory" of using subways to deploy troops to urban areas! If this "theory" has any credibility then why didn't Thailand use its subway system to quell the protests? Or, better yet, why didn't the US use its subway system to deploy national guards during the LA riots?

I understand Aung Zaw is trying hard to prove the link between the DPRK and the SPDC, but coming up with really outlandish "theories" not only undermines the credibility of his stories, but also reveals the real, intended motive of these articles.

As a journalist, Aung Zaw should at least have the dignity to remain credible. No one will take you and The Irrawaddy seriously if you keep coming up with absurd theories cooked up to support your claims.

Nelson Young Wrote:
Well done, Aung Zaw. I do really like most of your article. In this case, we can see clearly without compromise how dictators are seeing eye to eye to control the country. We Burmese people know how to eat rice day to day but not rockets or missiles.

planB Wrote:
Has the chicken finally come home to roost yet?
If it hasn't, it will.
Continue this present senseless policy and hasten the process.
Be afraid, be very afraid.
The SPDC do not need RMTD to acquire legitimacy.
Labeling one's country as 'Axis of Evil' will serve no practical purpose other than polarization within and ostracizing from without.
Has The Irrawaddy also given up on reconciliation?
If the purpose of this article is anything other than making the West aware of the necessary seriousness of dealing with the SPDC than it serves the intended purpose.
Otherwise, another round of SOS by anti-SPDC opinionated will ensue and the future will be sooner than predicted.
No redeeming value whatsoever to the suffering citizenry, however.

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