Burma to Establish Official Ties to North Korea
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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Burma to Establish Official Ties to North Korea

By Aung Zaw Monday, April 23, 2007


News agencies have reported that a senior North Korean official is scheduled to arrive in Burma’s capital this week to normalize ties between the two countries.

An Asian diplomat who declined to be named said that o­n April 25 the North Korean deputy foreign minister is scheduled to arrive in Naypyidaw to discuss the issue of renewed diplomatic ties.

In fact, in April last year, a Burmese foreign ministry official said the junta would reestablish diplomatic ties with North Korea in the near future. The official was quoted as saying: “Myanmar [Burma] has made the final decision to restore diplomatic relations with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”

The tie between the two countries was severed in 1983 after North Korean terrorists assassinated several South Korean ministers and officials who were visiting Rangoon in an official delegation. Then South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan was uninjured.

Over the past 10 years, however, Burma and North Korea quietly renewed ties, as Burmese generals desperately sought to modernize their armed forces. Since 2000, there have been secret, high-ranking visits between the two countries.

In June 2001, a North Korean delegation led by Vice Foreign Minister Park Kil-yon visited Rangoon and met with then Deputy Defense Minister Khin Maung Win to discuss cooperation in the defense industry.

The regime has since bought arms and ammunition from North Korea. In 2003, North Korean technicians and aircraft were spotted in central Burma, and analysts believe some North Korean technicians were involved in the construction of the new capital, Naypyidaw.

In July last year, a dissident source told The Irrawaddy that a North Korean ship carrying a senior Korean nuclear technology expert, Maj Hon Kil Dong, arrived in Rangoon with a biological and nuclear package. Western analysts and intelligence sources quickly dismissed the claim, but conceded it was possible that Burma would seek missile technology from Pyongyang.

Australian defense analyst Andrew Selth says the junta is apparently pursuing o­nly conventional arms and technology rather than high-tech, long-rang missiles.
There is no solid evidence, so far, that Burma is seeking nuclear technology from North Korea.

There is clear evidence that Burma has received between 12 and 16 M-46 artillery guns and as many as 20 million rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition from North Korea. According to Selth, the weapons significantly increase Burma’s long-range artillery capabilities.

Dissident groups in exile, who claim to have information about a military shopping list, accuse the regime of seeking to buy nuclear weapons from North Korea. They will no doubt carefully monitor the resumption of diplomatic ties between the two regimes, if it happens this week.

The ties between the two “outposts of tyranny,” as they were labeled by the Bush administration, also received attention in Washington.

The US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Eric John, said in February 2006 that Washington’s concerns have been heightened by what appears to be the imminent re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Burma and North Korea.

John said the authoritarian regimes have isolated themselves to the point where they have been driven into each other’s arms. He said there are grave concerns about the potential transfer of technology to Burma from North Korea, which claims to possess nuclear weapons.

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