Burma’s Secret Mission to North Korea
covering burma and southeast asia
Monday, August 15, 2022


Burma’s Secret Mission to North Korea


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

Burma’s armed forces appear to be going through a major reorganization, with sophisticated upgrades to include missiles, tunnel complexes, defensive rockets, anti-aircraft radar and command and control facilities

GEN Thura Shwe Mann, the Burmese regime’s No 3 man, made a secret visit to North Korea in November 2008.

As chief of staff of the army, navy and air force, and the coordinator of Special Operations, he led a 17-member, high-level delegation on a seven-day visit to Pyongyang, visiting, among other sites, secret tunnel complexes built into the sides of mountains to store and shield jet aircraft, missiles, tanks and nuclear and chemical weapons.

Accompanied by air defense chief Lt-Gen Myint Hlaing, Lt-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 his North Korean counterpart, Gen Kim Kyok-sik, signed a memorandum of understanding, officially formalizing 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 of the two armed forces.

It is reported that as early as 2002-3, Burma began constructing underground tunnels and caves to hide and protect aircraft and weapons, as well as to house a central command and control facility.

During his seven-day visit, Shwe Mann 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.

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 multi-purpose missile defense system that could be used 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. (As this issue goes to press, a North Korean ship, the Kam Nang 1, believed to be carrying weapons of some type, is due to dock in a Burmese port. The same ship made a mysterious port call to Burma in 2007.)

Historically, Burma has procured small arms, jet fighters and naval ships from the West, namely the US, Britain and some European countries. But after brutally crushing the 1988 democracy uprising, it faced Western sanctions and Burmese leaders desperately looked for new sources of weapons and ammunition to modernize its armed forces. Over the last two decades, Burma has bought jet fighters and naval ships from China, but increasingly it’s looked for alternative sources because of low quality and poor after-sales service. Burma has also bought jet fighters, arms, ammunition and hardware from Russia, Pakistan, India and Eastern European countries.

In the past, Burma purchased a “Pechora” air defense system—a Russian-made, surface-to-air, anti-aircraft system. Analysts say that Russians have also provided technical training and language courses to Burmese technicians.

The Burmese junta is clearly on a new mission to strengthen its military capacity, while earmarking its precious foreign reserves not to aid the people, but on more and more sophisticated weapons.

The Irrawaddy has extensive coverage of the Burma-North Korea issue at www2.irrawaddy.com.

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Moe Aung Wrote:
China is the wild card here. The junta cosying up to the N Koreans, who had blown up the martyrs' mausoleum in Yangon—no public apology so far—certainly indicates dissatisfaction over its dealings with the Chinese. US and EU pressure on China as major trading partners may well be an important factor in the equation. Singapore, too, is vulnerable to such pressure.
Despite China's need to keep Burma within its sphere, the Burmese junta might now prove too much of a liability to the Chinese who may start looking for a long term solution and even decide to back the opposition. This, after all, makes sense immensely if mutual benefit is to be a durable one.
The most ominous development of course is that, unlike China, Burma's new best friend is willing to assist in acquiring nuclear technology and capability, thus enabling the junta to cock a snook to the international community and persist in its cruel, unjust, repressive and exploitative rule over the Burmese nation.

Saw Dennis Wrote:
The SPDC leaders are driven by their ideology of militarism to buy costly new weaponry and to modernize the armed forces, while the people are starving and dying from easily treatable diseases. They never stop to think against whom they are really going to fight or they have to defend themselves. Surely, they will further impoverish the country. On the other hand, Development ideologues and their followers are blindly pressuring the Burmese freedom movement to collaborate with the SPDC for development, that will automatically bring, they say, democracy and human rights. This has caused a serious dissension among the opposition ranks. They should stop to think if development would be possible under the rule of the junta, which will continue to cling to power even after the election, in a different guise. These people should stop their divisive acts and follow the correct path of resistance and pressure to ease out the junta from power and to the goal of genuine freedom and a just peace.

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