Burma-North Korea Ties Pose a New Headache for US
By AUNG ZAW Wednesday, March 3, 2010


The US has been a leading critic of the Burmese regime's appalling human rights violations and repression of the country's opposition and ethnic minorities. Now, however, a shift in Washington's Burma policy can be discerned as the Obama administration seeks to engage with the regime.

The engagement policy is not only about promoting democracy and human rights in the military-ruled country. The most pressing issue is the warming relationship between Burma and North Korea.

During his first visit to Burma last year, US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell told the junta leaders of Washington's concern about the increasing military ties between Burma and North Korea.  It isn't clear whether Burma gave assurances to the US.

The US wants to see the Burmese regime sever its military ties with North Korea, but it won't have an easy task convincing the reclusive generals.

The Washington Post, quoting US officials, reported this week that the Obama administration had launched an aggressive campaign to convince Burma's junta to stop buying North Korean military technology.

A senior US State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the newspaper: “Our most decisive interactions have been around North Korea. We've been very clear to Burma. We'll see over time if it's been heard.”

Burma’s neighbors, as well as the US, will need to carefully monitor the strengthening ties between Naypyidaw and Pyongyang.

Last month, alarm bells rang when Burma's state-run media reported that several high-ranking Burmese military officials, including Lt-Gen Tin Aye, ranked No 5 in the Burmese armed forces hierarchy, participated in a Rangoon ceremony to mark the 68th birthday of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

The New Light of Myanmar ran a front-page story with a photograph of Tin Aye and North Korean Ambassador Kim Sok Chol holding hands together at a welcoming reception.

An interesting development was a full-page birthday tribute to Kim Jong Il, published in the Burmese language “Popular Journal” and praising Kim as a true patriotic leader. The article hailed Kim's creation of nuclear and guided missile programs, saying he had stood up against the West and sacrificed his life for the future of North Korea.
There is no doubt that the regime’s notorious censorship board approved the article after receiving the green light from top leaders in Naypyidaw.
Burma and North Korea have developed a military relationship since the two countries restored diplomatic ties in 2007.

Analysts believe that clandestine military ties between the two countries may have been reestablished as early as 1999, when Burmese officials paid a low-profile visit to the North Korea capital.

Last year, The Irrawaddy exposed a leaked report of a clandestine visit by Gen Shwe Mann to military facilities and missile factories in North Korea.

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

Accompanied by air defense chief Lt-Gen Myint Hlaing and other senior army leaders from heavy industries, the delegation was clearly on a mission to cement stronger military ties with the hermit state.

During the visit, 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.

In July 2009, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed concern over military links between North Korea and Burma.
“We know that there are also growing concerns about military co-operation between North Korea and Burma, which we take very seriously,” Clinton told journalists in Bangkok during a visit to Southeast Asia. “It would be destabilizing for the region. It would pose a direct threat to Burma's neighbors.”

Military analysts say the North Korean regime has provided Burma with weapons, military technology transfers and expertise in underground tunneling used for concealing secret military installations. Since 2002, they say, dozens of North Korean technicians have assisted the Burmese armed forces.

Under the terms of the memorandum, North Korea would build or supervise the construction of special Burmese military facilities, including tunnels and caves in which missiles, aircraft and even naval ships could be hidden.

1  |  2 

Please read our policy before you post comments. Click here
E-mail:   (Your e-mail will not be published.)
You have characters left.
Word Verification: captcha Type the characters you see in the picture.

plan B Wrote:
Nothing puerile about seeing the evidences and trend well know and well presented by Irrawaddy.
Ignoring the worst possibility and kissing up to a country whose moral based policies which other follow resulting in more suffering clearly shown is neither inane or unclear.
Myanmar Patriot 4 UMPF
Any shred of evidence what US has done, anything to bring Myanmar under it wing so far?
And I shall give you 10 that has driven Myanmar towards DPRK.

Myanmar Idiot 5 Wrote:
Instead of having good relationships with democratic nations, the SPDC chose countries with dictators like N Korea.

Myanmar Patriot 4 UMPF Wrote:
The article is contentious at best and wishful at worst. The US has far more serious problems. Besides, in the long run the US would like Burma under its wing. The comments by Zam Mang and plan B are simply very purile. As we believe in freedom of expression, we congratulate IRRAWADDY for publishing the article, which is a wishful speculation, and the two inane comments.

Zam Mang Wrote:
The lepers always stick together as they have the same disease. Than Shwe and Kim Jong Il have the same problem too. They are extremely afraid of losing power. They know that losing power will mean death penalty to them. Therefore, the two lepers are trying to walk on the same road.

plan B Wrote:
What ye sow so shall ye reap!
Wait until SPDC start providing every need of DPRK in raw material.
Can you see SPDC offending US by proxy?
Pay back time.
Us know what to do yet have you seen any aspect of that knowledge being applied.
Headache is the understatement Ko Aung Zaw.
US will rather deal with a DPRM then reversing present once again energized anti junta rhetoric.
Meanwhile the citizenry of such resulting country continue to suffer.

More Articles in This Section

bullet Sizing Up an Icon

bullet Fighting Corruption Begins at Home

bullet Future of Exiled Burmese Media

bullet How Much Freedom Does Burmese Media Enjoy?

bullet Five Days in Burma

bullet Turning Burma into Next Asian Tiger No Simple Task

bullet With Suu Kyi On Board, Is Burma Finally Moving Toward Real Change?

bullet The ‘Rule of Law’ in Burma

bullet New Doors are Opening in Burma

bullet A Good Beginning to the New Year

Thailand Hotels
Bangkok Hotels
China Hotels
India Hotels


Home |News |Regional |Business |Opinion |Multimedia |Special Feature |Interview |Magazine |Burmese Elections 2010 |Archives |Research
Copyright © 2008 Irrawaddy Publishing Group. All Rights Reserved.