Burma-North Korea Ties Resurface as Hot Issue
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Burma-North Korea Ties Resurface as Hot Issue

By WAI MOE Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Military ties between Burma and North Korea, and the related issue of Burma's suspected nuclear development program, have come front and center once again as a regional topic of debate following the visit to Burma on Monday by United States envoy Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

Campbell's visit came on the heels of a report in April that a vessel linked to North Korea had arrived in Thilawar Port, near Rangoon, and one of Campbell's key meetings was with Burmese Minister of Science and Technology U Thaung, a former ambassador to the United States who is said to manage Burma’s nuclear development program.

The Kang Nam I cargo ship docked at a port in Yangon on May 21, 2007. (Photo: Getty Image)

According to a report in state-controlled The New Light of Myanmar on Wednesday, U Thaung's message to the US envoy was ambiguous. While acknowledging that the Burmese government had publicly announced its agreement to comply with United Nations Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874, which ban all North Korean arms exports, U Thaung also said the Burmese government has “the duty to maintain and protect national sovereignty.”

Following the meeting with U Thaung, the US envoy issued a strong warning concerning Burma's arms purchases from North Korea, which some analysts suspect include nuclear technology.

And after leaving Burma, Campbell flew to Beijing, where his discussions with Chinese officials regarding North Korea are expected to include the relationship between Pyongyang and Naypyidaw.

US-based policy advisers have warned Washington that ties between Burma and North Korea threaten regional stability.

“Several factors could intensify the threat that Burma poses to regional stability and security, including its murky relationship with North Korea,” said Asia Society, an influential New York think-tank, in a report on Burma published in March.

Further talks regarding the ties between Burma and North Korea are likely to be scheduled for the upcoming Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ regional forum, to be held in Hanoi in July. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Jim Webb, the chairman of the US Senate’s committee for East Asia and Pacific Affairs, are expected to attend the forum.

Security experts agree that North Korea has provided Burma with Scud-type missiles, missile parts, rocket launchers, other conventional weapons and underground warfare technology.

The debate now centers on Burma's nuclear development capabilities and the extent to which North Korea is supporting such capabilities.

An intelligence report suggested that at least 1,000 Burmese military personnel have graduated from nuclear technology programs in Russia and North Korea in the past year.

According to observers, and data from Burma’s Ministry of Energy, there are nine uranium mines in Burma, and some security analysts believe that in exchange for North Korean nuclear technology and expertise, the Burmese regime has exported enriched uranium and primary products to North Korea.

Desmond Ball, an Australian expert on Burma, wrote a 2009 report that, quoting Burmese defectors, said the Burmese armed forces established a ‘nuclear battalion’ in 2000 whose operational base includes an underground complex in the mountains southwest of Naung Laing, near Pyin Oo Lwin, where the regime is reportedly constructing a nuclear reactor.

Ball's report said that with North Korea's aide the reactor in Naung Laing could be completed around 2012 and Burma could develop its first deliverable nuclear weapons by 2020.

Although it is presently unclear how North Korea manages to smuggle arms and technology into Burma, speculation over the North Korean vessel that arrived in Rangoon in April followed the controversy last June when the Kang Nam 1, a North Korean vessel believed to be heading to Burma, made a u-turn in the South China Sea after being tailed by a US Destroyer.

Some observers believe that North Korea may also ship arms to Burma by air through China. Sources in Meiktila, in central Burma, have reported seeing military cargoes, believed to be from China and North Korea, arriving at Meiktila Airport, which serves as a Burmese Air Force base.

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ko lay Wrote:
Nothing's gonna stop Myanmra from taking arms from North Korea. It is long long time that the army junta get arms from North Korea.

KKK Wrote:
To A.M.O:

There is no doubt Than Shwe is heading to hell now.

A.M.O Wrote:
Military analyst Aung Kyaw Zaw could be reached for issues listed as:-

- Shopping list from NK include medium range missiles or not?
- Medium range missiles payload (total tonnage) could be air-lifted or not?
- If not, could they be disassembled for air-lift?
(NB: Air-lift to avoid sea lane due to the US Navy)
- Medium range for what? To reach Dhaka(their rival for offshore gas)?
- What other shopping lists?
(NB: if it is small arms, it is to shoot their own people)

Military analyst Aung Kyaw Zaw could comment on what Gen Than Shwe is up to, NOW.

Zam Mang Wrote:
It does not surprise me. The lepers always stay together. Than Shwe the leper and Kim Jong Il the leper are brothers in spirit which is dictatorship.

Kyaw Wrote:
The mad generals are leading this country to total disintegration. Current military leaders are attracting eventual US action on Burma which will end the union of Burma.
The generals must be terminated before all those things happen. Save the country and save the union. With Than Shwe, we will all be doomed.

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