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Posts Tagged ‘Nuclear

ANALYSIS: Burma’s nuclear temptation —Bertil Lintner

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ANALYSIS: Burma’s nuclear temptation —Bertil Lintner

All that is certain is that Burma has a nuclear programme. It may be years, if not decades, away from developing nuclear-weapons capability. But the fact that the country’s military leadership is experimenting with nuclear power is cause for concern

Over the past year, Southeast Asia’s diplomatic community has tried to sort fact from fiction in a stream of unconfirmed reports from Burma, the region’s most isolated and secretive country. Burma’s fledgling nuclear programme with Russian assistance and its mysterious connections with North Korea raise concern in the region about its purpose.

According to Burmese exiles in Thailand, the Russians and North Koreans assist the Burmese in developing nuclear capability. But wary of similar reports by Iraqi exiles a few years ago, which turned out to be false, the international community remains sceptical. In a research paper for Griffith University, for example, Australian scholar Andrew Selth dismisses the reports.

Nevertheless, certain facts are not in doubt. Burma first initiated a nuclear research programme as early as 1956, when its then-democratic government set up the Union of Burma Atomic Energy Centre, UBAEC, in then-capital Rangoon. Unrelated to the country’s defence industries, it came to a halt when the military seized power in 1962. New power-holders, led by General Ne Win did not trust UBAEC head Hla Nyunt.

In February 2001, Burma’s present junta, the State Peace and Development Council decided to revitalise the country’s nuclear programme, and Russia’s Atomic Energy Ministry announced plans to build a 10-megawatt nuclear research reactor in central Burma. In July 2001, Burma established a Department of Atomic Energy, believed to be the brainchild of the Minister of Science and Technology, U Thaung, a graduate of Burma’s Defence Services Academy and former ambassador to the United States. US-trained nuclear scientist Thein Po Saw was identified as a leading advocate for nuclear technology in Burma.

At a press conference in Rangoon on January 21, 2002, Vice-Chief of Military Intelligence Major-General Kyaw Win issued a statement: “Myanmar’s consideration of building a nuclear research reactor is based on the peaceful purposes getting modern technologies needed for the country, availability of radioisotopes being used peacefully, training technicians and performing feasibility study for generation of electricity from nuclear power.”

While Burma suffers from chronic power shortages, the need for a research reactor, used mainly for medical purposes, is unclear. Radioisotopes allow imaging of the brain, bones, organs, lungs and blood flow, advanced technology for Burma’s basic health services.

However, observers pointed out the Russian-made nuclear-research reactor that the Burmese authorities sought to acquire is similar to the 5-megawatt research reactor that the then–Soviet Union installed at Yongbyon in North Korea in 1965, from which North Korea later extracted plutonium for a nuclear device. Burma’s military leaders couldn’t help but notice how North Korea stood up to the US, a harsh critic of the Burmese regime, mainly due to its nuclear programme.

Reports have been murky since. In April 2007, days after the restoration of diplomatic ties between Burma and North Korea — broken since North Koreans detonated a bomb in Rangoon in 1983 — a North Korean freighter, the Kang Nam I, docked at Thilawa port. Burmese officials claimed that the ship sought shelter from a storm. But two Burmese reporters working for a Japanese news agency were briefly detained when they went to the port to investigate, indicating possible other, more secret reasons for the visit.

According to the July 2007 issue of the Irrawaddy, a Thailand-based publication by Burmese exiles: “by a strange coincidence, the 2,900-ton North Korean cargo vessel MV Bong Hoafan…sought shelter from a storm and anchored at a Burmese port last November. The Burmese government reported that an on-board inspection had ‘found no suspicious material or military equipment’. But journalists and embassies in Rangoon remained sceptical.”

At about the same time, the South Korean news agency Yonhap reported “a North Korean ship under US surveillance was believed to have unloaded self-propelled artillery at a Myanmar port.”

The deal with Russia was stalled for several years, but in May 2007, Russia’s atomic energy agency, Rosatom, announced construction of the nuclear-research reactor. According to Rosatom, the reactor would use low-enriched uranium, not plutonium. Up to 350 Burmese nationals, most military personnel, trained in Russia under the initial 2001 agreement, and since then several hundred more trained at Russian institutions.

Signatories of the agreement reached in Moscow on May 15, 2007 were U Thaung and Rosatom head Sergey Kiriyenko. According to Rosatom’s press release: “The sides have agreed to cooperate on the establishment of a centre for nuclear studies in the territory of Myanmar (the general contractor will be Atomstroyexport). The centre will comprise a 10-megawatt light water reactor working on 20 per cent-enriched uranium-235, an activation analysis laboratory, a medical isotope production laboratory, silicon doping system, nuclear waste treatment and burial facilities. The centre will be controlled by IAEA.”

Despite that claim, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported on May 17, 2007, that Burma had not reported plans to build a nuclear reactor. As a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Burma is required to allow inspections of any nuclear facilities. The agreement does not mention North Korea, but in November 2003, the Norway-based broadcasting station Democratic Voice of Burma, run by Burmese exiles, reported that 80 Burmese military personnel had departed for North Korea to study “nuclear and atomic energy technology”.

The report remains unconfirmed, its source unclear. If Burmese military personnel travelled to North Korea, it’s more likely for training in maintenance of missiles, which Burma then wanted to buy from North Korea but could not yet afford.

Alarm bells rang in August 2008, after India withdrew permission for a North Korean plane to fly over its airspace en route to Iran, just before taking off from Mandalay in Burma where it had made a stopover. The Il-62 carried unidentified cargo, and its destination after the stopover was unclear.

Reports of some cooperation between Burma, Russia, North Korea and Iran have also come from two Burmese nationals, an army officer and a scientist, who recently left the country. According to them, a Russian-supplied 10-megawatt research reactor is being built, at Myaing, north of Pakokku, said to be for peaceful research. But according to the defectors, another facility exists south of the old hill station of Myin Oo Lwin, formerly known as Maymyo. Three Russians supposedly work there while a group of North Koreans are said to engage in tunnelling and constructing a water-cooling system. The defectors also assert that in 2007 an Iranian intelligence officer, identified only as “Mushavi”, visited Burma. Apart from sharing nuclear knowledge, he reportedly provided advice on missile systems using computer components from Milan.

Burma has uranium deposits, and the Ministry of Energy has identified five sources of ore in the country, all low-grade uranium unsuitable for military purposes. But defectors claim that two more uranium mines in Burma are not included in official reports: one near Mohnyin in Kachin State and another in the vicinity of Mogok in Mandalay Division. The ore is supposedly transported to a Thabeikkyin refinery, conveniently located between the two alleged mines.

Until such reports can be verified, or refuted, speculations remain. But a nuclear-powered Burma would be a nightmare for all neighbours and would upset the balance of power in the region. All that is certain is that Burma has a nuclear programme. It may be years, if not decades, away from developing nuclear-weapons capability. But the fact that the country’s military leadership is experimenting with nuclear power is cause for concern. —YaleGlobal

Bertil Lintner is a Swedish journalist based in Thailand and the author of several works on Asia, including Blood Brothers: The Criminal Underworld of Asia and Great Leader, Dear Leader: Demystifying North Korea under the Kim Clan

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2008\12\19\story_19-12-2008_pg3_6

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Written by Lwin Aung Soe

December 19, 2008 at 3:58 pm

World focus on Burma (19 December 2008)

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Japan to accept 30 Burmese refugees
Mizzima.com, India –
“They are about 30 Burmese refugees from the Thai-Myanmar [Burma] border. The government is still discussing details on how it will handle the programme and …

ACT Situation Report: Myanmar emergency response operation 19 Dec 2008
ReliefWeb (press release), Switzerland –
Cyclone Nargis, with wind speeds of 190 km/hr, heavy rain and its associated sea surge, devastated major parts of Myanmar (Burma) causing extensive damage …

Burma likely to announce ‘Election Law’ on Independence Day
Mizzima.com, India –
Aye Lwin, leader of the 88 generation students (Union of Myanmar), a group backed by the junta, during an interview with Mizzima said it would be wiser for …

Burmese Journalist Looks Back at a 20-Year Struggle
Mindanao Examiner, Philippines –
When the National League for Democracy (NLD) party led by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi won by a landslide, the SLORC declared the elections void.

Post-Nargis periodic review I
ReliefWeb (press release), Switzerland –
On 2 May 2008, Cyclone Nargis struck the coast of Myanmar. Over two days, the Cyclone moved across the Ayeyarwady Delta and southern Yangon Division …

EU to give €40.5 million in humanitarian aid to Burma
Mizzima.com, India –
by Solomon New Delhi (Mizzima) – The European Commission on Thursday said it will give another €40.5 million (US$ 58 million) of aid to Burma, …

A Wish for the Year 2009
American Muslim, MO –
The Junta in Burma (Myanmar) perseveres in its horrible record of oppression. The world focused on it for a few weeks, then moved on. …

EU Donates More Funds to Aid Burmese
The Irrawaddy News Magazine, Thailand –
“The objective of our activities in Myanmar [Burma] is solely humanitarian,” said Michel in the press statement. Michel said his agency worked well with the …

Letters Land Prisoners’ Relatives, Guards in Jail
The Irrawaddy News Magazine, Thailand –
He was sentenced in November to 65 years imprisonment, which he is currently serving at Mergui Prison in southern Burma’s Tenasserim Division. …

NCGUB marks 18th anniversary
Democratic Voice of Burma, Norway –
… Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, Dr Sein Win, expressed his disappointment yesterday in the lack of progress towards democracy in Burma. …

Weekly Business Roundup (December 19, 2008)
The Irrawaddy News Magazine, Thailand –
By WILLIAM BOOT A multimillion dollar boost to telecommunications between northeast India and Burma will be completed by next March, according to media …

Where Children Count the Years Before They Rejoin Their Mothers
The Irrawaddy News Magazine, Thailand –
In Burma’s case, the regime is not only condemning human rights activists to outrageous terms of imprisonment but also punishing members of their families …

Brief Introduction – Yunnan
Alibaba News Channel, NEW YORK –

To expand the burgeoning trade with Burma and India, Emperor Wu also sent Tang Meng (唐蒙) to maintain and expand the Five Foot Way, renaming it “Southwest …

Prospective foreign minister will rebuild good relations
Thai News Agency MCOT, Thailand –
Mr. Kasit, a former career diplomat, said he will quickly revive and strengthen diplomatic relationships with Cambodia, Myanmar and Malaysia. …

MYANMAR: More cyclone relief needed – report
IRINnews.org, NY –
Comprising three members each from the Myanmar government, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the UN, the TCG seeks to facilitate …

Will ASEAN’s charter cure Burma’s ills?
Mizzima.com, India –
… including Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. However, ASEAN has often been ridiculed for apparently turning a blind eye to the Burmese regime’s …

Thai Heroin Smuggling Was For Money
Javno.hr, Croatia –

Until the 1990s, Thailand was once a major supplier of heroin from the Golden Triangle, the mountainous and relatively lawless region where it meets Myanmar …

Nine years in prison for attempting to smuggle out letter
Mizzima.com, India –
He was then transferred to the Mergui (Myeik) prison in Tenassarim (Tanintharyi) Division of southern Burma from Rangoon’s notorious Insein prison.

Designated Thai foreign minister pledges ethical approach
Earthtimes (press release), UK –
Investigators, appointed by a military junta that overthrew Thaksin in a September 2006 coup, said he had arranged soft state loans to Myanmar on condition …

Pushing Mugabe
Windsor Star,  Canada –
When people in countries like Zimbabwe or Burma stand and fight, they often have lawyers standing beside them. And the remarkable thing is that often, …

Myanmar holds referendum amid cyclone chaos
MSN India, India –
Burma is the old name for Myanmar and is preferred by its pro-democracy movement. The groups urged people to mark their ballots with X, which has become a …

2010 game plan: Clinging to power (Burma)
Himal Southasian, Nepal –
They will do their best to marginalize the ‘National League for Democracy’ (NLD) including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other pro-democracy forces in this …

Myanmar to receive humanitarian aid from EU
New Straits Times, Malaysia –
The European Commission (EC) has decided to provide an additional 40.5 million EUR (US$56.7 million) in humanitarian aid to Myanmar, hard hit by Cyclone …

Laura Bush surprised how far voice carried
USA Today –
… an outspoken supporter of Aung San Suu Kyi, a writer and pro-democracy leader under house arrest by the military junta in Burma, also known as Myanmar. …

Family members relieved at Suresh’s acquittal
Express Buzz, India –
… Guruvayoor temple, to be welcomed with the news of their son’s acquittal in the murder case of social activist and advocate Vasantha from Burma. …

Disaster and hope
World Magazine, NC –
… in the winds and floods created by Nargis, a severe cyclone that became the worst natural disaster in the history of Burma, known now as Myanmar. …

ANALYSIS: Burma’s nuclear temptation —Bertil Lintner
Daily Times, Pakistan –
At a press conference in Rangoon on January 21, 2002, Vice-Chief of Military Intelligence Major-General Kyaw Win issued a statement: “Myanmar’s …

‘They Told Me Not to Come Anymore’
Radio Free Asia, DC –
The wife of a jailed activist in Burma talks about her husband’s brutal mistreatment at the hands of his captors. Security officials stay alert as people …

President and Mrs. Bush Host Reception in Honor of the United …
Whitehouse.gov (press release), DC –
And the advancement of women’s rights in Afghanistan or freedom in Burma are noble causes that are essential to the peace of the world. …

Insurers hit by hurricanes and financial crisis
Times Online, UK –
In total, catastrophes cost more than 238000 lives globally in 2008, 138400 of them as a result of Cyclone Nargis in Burma. The wind storm registered top …

Burmese Lawyer Flees, Speaks Out
Radio Free Asia, DC –
The state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper said Myint Aye had funded the bombing and Zaw Zaw Aung and Yan Shwe carried it out. …

The tragedy of Greek apathy
guardian.co.uk, UK –
… pro-democracy marches in Burma in 1988, and more demonstrations – this time against the Islamic Republic that succeeded the Shah – in Tehran in 1998. …

Laura Bush speaks out on shoe-throwing incident
USA Today –
A month before returning to private life, Bush said she will continue her public advocacy of women’s rights in Afghanistan and democracy for Burma. …


Written by Lwin Aung Soe

December 19, 2008 at 2:09 am

World focus on Burma (18 December 2008)

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EU provides extra 40 million euros in aid to Myanmar
AFP –

… an extra 40.5 million euros (58.7 million dollars) in aid for two million vulnerable people in Myanmar, notably those affected by cyclone Nargis in May. …

EU to provide 40.5 million euros humanitarian aid to Myanmar
Xinhua, China –
The humanitarian situation in Myanmar worsened in 2008 because of the devastating impact of Cyclone Nargis, and large increases in rice and fuel prices. …

Burma cancels license of 84 tour companies
Mizzima.com, India –
Besides, more and more tourists avoided visiting Burma, when in May the ruling junta responded poorly to a natural disaster – Cyclone Nargis – that swept …

Junta-backed USDA unlikely to contest 2010 election
Mizzima.com, India –
“All they [junta] want is the National League for Democracy and The Lady [Aung San Suu Kyi] out,” the source emphasized. According to Jagan, despite the …

World Citizen: A Year of Wisdom, Wiliness — and Craven Stupidity
World Politics Review –
Another country whose future — and present — should concern us all is Burma, renamed Myanmar by its illegitimate rulers. Burma’s pro-democracy leader, …

Asean’s human rights record is nothing to be proud of
เดอะ เนชั่น, Thailand –
Along the Thai-Burma border, about three quarters of the 140000 refugees in nine temporary shelters are women and children. These women and children need as …

Written by CFI Field Staff
Christian Freedom International, MI –
“Thank you also for helping our persecuted brothers and sisters inside Burma with emergency rice. May God bless you and fulfill all of your needs,” said …

Czech Republic, East Timor offer asylum to Burmese rebels
Mizzima.com, India –
… organisations include armed resistant groups, political groups and parties that have been living in exile and struggling to restore democracy in Burma. …

Tumbling Kelly!
Mizzima.com, India –
by Ko Soe At the time of global financial crisis, our backward and underdeveloped country Burma could not find appropriate ways and means to face this …

Lord Levene to continue as Lloyds Chairman
Director of Finance online, UK –
Levene was earlier this year personally singled out for criticism over backing the Burmese junta by facilitating insurance for those companies that finance …

Crises in Myanmar: Commission provides a further €40.5 million in …
ReliefWeb (press release), Switzerland –
During 2008, the humanitarian situation in Myanmar worsened due to the devastating impact of Cyclone Nargis, and big increases in rice and fuel prices. …

2010 game plan: Clinging to power
Mizzima.com, India –
They will do their best to marginalize the ‘National League for Democracy’ (NLD) including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other pro-democracy forces in this …

Church World Service Year End Assesment
Worldwide Faith News (press release), NY –
In Myanmar (Burma), some 3 million people have been forced to migrate within the country. Reasons driving the displacement range from conflicts to land …

Than Shwe’s Dynastic Family Dream on Parade at State Function
The Irrawaddy News Magazine, Thailand –
14815-18_dec_4top2In The New Light of Myanmar’s coverage of the graduation ceremony, a picture of Shwe Mann, Burma’s Chief of Staff and Coordinator of Special Operations, …

Ban ‘Disappointed’ with Junta
The Irrawaddy News Magazine, Thailand –

“I am disappointed by the unwillingness of the government of Myanmar [Burma] to deliver on its promises for democratic dialogue and the release of political …

The Thinker: A ‘Gentle Lieutenant’ Is Remembered
Jakarta Globe, Indonesia –
… problem and the Moro insurgency in the Philippines; he attempted to persuade the military junta in Burma to release Aung Sang Suu Kyi, to no avail. …

Swiss Re Estimates That Over 238000 People Were Killed by …
PR Newswire (press release), NY –
… Myanmar(Burma) winds up to 200 km/h 2 87449 12.05.2008 Earthquake (Mw 7.9); China aftershocks 3 1413 19.06.2008 Typhoon Fengshen/No 6, Philippines, ..

Few Takers for Cyclone Nargis Tours
The Irrawaddy News Magazine, Thailand –
Visitors to Burma signing up for tours to the delta have to state the purpose of their travel and are told any donations or material aid they intend giving …

New Year Wish to the distressed poor people of Burma
Mizzima.com, India –
Unfortunately, though it became a sovereign state the country had a bad experience all along with tainted democracy, boiling insurgency, damaging socialism, …

NLD member to face further charges
Democratic Voice of Burma, Norway –
Dec 18, 2008 (DVB)–Burmese authorities are planning to file further charges against Arakan state National League for Democracy member Min Aung, …

Ban: World faces “multiple crises” in 2009
InTheNews.co.uk, UK –

… the unmoving government in Burma were also included. And the world was judged to be “on trial” over wider issues like human rights and the food crisis. …

‘Extravagant’ Americans fault
Straits Times, Singapore –
The global economic downturn is a further blow to a tourism industry struggling to recover in the aftermath of cyclone Nargis in May, and the junta’s bloody …

Myanmar blames “extravagant” Americans for crisis
Reuters UK, UK –
The former Burma relied on few imports and its main trading partners, India and China, were suffering less than others in the current economic downturn, …

Aussie busted for drugs, mate on the run
The West Australian, Australia –
Thailand toughened its drug laws in 2002, but remains a transit point for narcotics produced in neighbouring Myanmar, the world’s second largest opium …

15 migrant workers jailed in Thailand
Democratic Voice of Burma, Norway –
Dec 18, 2008 (DVB)–Fifteen Burmese migrants have been jailed for more than four years for working in Bangkok with fake permits, but the Thai boss who issued …

Wishful thinking for 2009
New Statesman, UK –
April: Aung San Suu Kyi is released from house arrest and assumes her rightful place as the democratic head of the government of Burma. …

Ban criticizes Burma for shying away from democratization
Mizzima.com, India –
The UN has called repeatedly for the release of political prisoners including Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been detained for 13 of the …

Dissent Behind the Bamboo Curtain
FrontPage magazine.com, CA –
Xiao Qiang, who runs the Chinese blog Rock-n-Go, was invited to the White House last week for a meeting between dissident bloggers from China, Burma, …

S.BATBOLD CONGRATULATES ASEAN SECRETARY-GENERAL
Montsame (subscription), Mongolia –
As of present, it has enlisted ten countries as Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Burma, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. …

Prosecuting Thailand’s PAD
United Press International, Asia, Hong Kong –
In fact, the number of serious crimes committed under the banner of the group calling itself the People’s Alliance for Democracy is so large that it’s hard …

How To Be an Ethical Consumer Without Breaking the Bank
AlterNet, CA –
But when I deny my role in global issues such as human-rights violations and climate change, I am shirking my social responsibility — and this is …

The United Nations has repeatedly called on Burma to release democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been detained for 13 of the past 19 years, …

Mumbai massacre fallout hits Karachi
The News International, Pakistan –
There is also a plan for taking action against ‘illegal immigrants’, as according to official figures, more than two million Bengalis and Burmese and over …

NARA offers illegal migrants fresh start
The News International, Pakistan –
Since 2000, the UN member states, intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations have been marking Migrants Day by creating awareness on human rights …

Burma’s nuclear temptation
On Line opinion, Australia –
At a press conference in Rangoon on January 21, 2002, Vice-Chief of Military Intelligence Major-General Kyaw Win issued a statement: “Myanmar’s …

Bringing Hope and Help to the Persecuted People of Burma
Christian Freedom International, MI –
“Thank you also for helping our persecuted brothers and sisters inside Burma with emergency rice. May God bless you and fulfill all of your needs,” said …

The biggest disasters of 2008
WA today, Australia –
Cyclone Nargis lashed Burma on May 2 and 3, leaving 138000 people dead or missing, 2.4 million homeless and vital rice crops destroyed. …

The biggest disasters of 2008
WA today, Australia –
Cyclone Nargis lashed Burma on May 2 and 3, leaving 138000 people dead or missing, 2.4 million homeless and vital rice crops destroyed. …

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

December 18, 2008 at 2:41 am

Burma’s Nuclear Temptation

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The Epoch Times

Dec 10, 2008

Rich with uranium and desperate for control, the Burmese junta may find a nuclear option attractive

By Bertil Lintner
YaleGlobal

North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Yong-Il (C) visits Shwedagon Pagoda along with officials in Myanmar city of Yangon, April 2007. (Khin Maung Win/AFP/Getty Images)

CHIANG MAI: Over the past year, Southeast Asia’s diplomatic community has tried to sort fact from fiction in a stream of unconfirmed reports from Burma, the region’s most isolated and secretive country. Burma’s fledgling nuclear program with Russian assistance and its mysterious connections with North Korea raise concern in the region about its purpose.

According to Burmese exiles in Thailand, the Russians and North Koreans assist the Burmese in developing nuclear capability. But wary of similar reports by Iraqi exiles a few years ago, which turned out to be false, the international community remains skeptical. In a research paper for Griffith University, for example, Australian scholar Andrew Selth, dismisses the reports.

Nevertheless, certain facts are not in doubt. Burma first initiated a nuclear research program as early as 1956, when its then-democratic government set up the Union of Burma Atomic Energy Center, UBAEC, in then-capital Rangoon. Unrelated to the country’s defense industries, it came to a halt when the military seized power in 1962. New power-holders, led by General Ne Win did not trust UBAEC head Hla Nyunt.

In February 2001, Burma’s present junta, the State Peace and Development Council decided to revitalize the country’s nuclear program, and Russia’s Atomic Energy Ministry announced plans to build a 10-megawatt nuclear research reactor in central Burma. In July 2001, Burma established a Department of Atomic Energy, believed to be the brainchild of the Minister of Science and Technology, U Thaung, a graduate of Burma’s Defense Services Academy and former ambassador to the United States. US-trained nuclear scientist Thein Po Saw was identified as a leading advocate for nuclear technology in Burma.

At a press conference in Rangoon on January 21, 2002, Vice-Chief of Military Intelligence Major-General Kyaw Win issued a statement: “Myanmar’s consideration of building a nuclear research reactor is based on the peaceful purposes getting modern technologies needed for the country, availability of radioisotopes being used peacefully, training technicians and performing feasibility study for generation of electricity from nuclear power.”

While Burma suffers from chronic power shortages, the need for a research reactor, used mainly for medical purposes, is unclear. Radioisotopes allow imaging of the brain, bones, organs, lungs and blood flow, advanced technology for Burma’s basic health services.

However, observers pointed out the Russian-made nuclear-research reactor that the Burmese authorities sought to acquire is similar to the 5-megawatt research reactor that the then–Soviet Union installed at Yongbyon in North Korea in 1965, from which North Korea later extracted plutonium for a nuclear device. Burma’s military leaders couldn’t help but notice how North Korea stood up to the US, a harsh critic of the Burmese regime, mainly due to its nuclear program.

Reports have been murky since. In April 2007, days after the restoration of diplomatic ties between Burma and North Korea – broken since North Koreans detonated a bomb in Rangoon in 1983 – a North Korean freighter, the Kang Nam I, docked at Thilawa port. Burmese officials claimed that the ship sought shelter from a storm. But two Burmese reporters working for a Japanese news agency were briefly detained when they went to the port to investigate, indicating possible other, more secret reasons for the visit.
According to the July 2007 issue of the Irrawaddy, a Thailand-based publication by Burmese exiles: “by a strange coincidence, the 2,900-ton North Korean cargo vessel MV Bong Hoafan…sought shelter from a storm and anchored at a Burmese port last November. The Burmese government reported that an on-board inspection had ‘found no suspicious material or military equipment.’ But journalists and embassies in Rangoon remained skeptical.”

At about the same time, the South Korean news agency Yonhap reported “a North Korean ship under US surveillance was believed to have unloaded self-propelled artillery at a Myanmar port.”

The deal with Russia was stalled for several years, but in May 2007, Russia’s atomic energy agency, Rosatom, announced construction of the nuclear-research reactor. According to Rosatom, the reactor would use low-enriched uranium, not plutonium. Up to 350 Burmese nationals, most military personnel, already trained in Russia under the initial 2001 agreement, and since then several hundred more trained at Russian institutions.

Signatories of the agreement reached in Moscow on May 15, 2007 were U Thaung and Rosatom head Sergey Kiriyenko. According to Rosatom’s press release: ” The sides have agreed to cooperate on the establishment of a center for nuclear studies in the territory of Myanmar (the general contractor will be Atomstroyexport). The center will comprise a 10-megawatt light water reactor working on 20 per cent-enriched uranium-235, an activation analysis laboratory, a medical isotope production laboratory, silicon doping system, nuclear waste treatment and burial facilities. The center will be controlled by IAEA.”

Despite that claim, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported on May 17, 2007, that Burma had not reported plans to build a nuclear reactor. As a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Burma is required to allow inspections of any nuclear facilities.

The agreement does not mention North Korea, but in November 2003 the Norway-based broadcasting station Democratic Voice of Burma, run by Burmese exiles, reported that 80 Burmese military personnel had departed for North Korea to study “nuclear and atomic energy technology.”

The report remains unconfirmed, its source unclear. If Burmese military personnel traveled to North Korea, it’s more likely for training in maintenance of missiles, which Burma then wanted to buy from North Korea but could not yet afford.

Alarm bells rang in August 2008, after India withdrew permission for a North Korean plane to overfly its airspace on route to Iran, just before taking off from Mandalay in Burma where it had made a stopover. The Ilyushin-62 carried unidentified cargo, and it’s destination after the stopover was unclear.

Reports of some cooperation between Burma, Russia, North Korea and Iran have also come from two Burmese nationals, an army officer and a scientist, who recently left the country. According to them, a Russian-supplied 10-megawatt research reactor is being built, at Myaing, north of Pakokku, said to be for peaceful research. But according to the defectors, another facility exists south of the old hill station of Myin Oo Lwin, formerly known as Maymyo. Three Russians supposedly work there while a group of North Koreans are said to engage in tunneling and constructing a water-cooling system. The defectors also assert that in 2007 an Iranian intelligence officer, identified only as “Mushavi,” visited Burma. Apart from sharing nuclear knowledge, he reportedly provided advice on missile systems using computer components from Milan.

Burma has uranium deposits, and the Ministry of Energy has identified five sources of ore in the country, all low-grade uranium unsuitable for military purposes. But the defectors claim that two more uranium mines in Burma are not included in official reports: one near Mohnyin in Kachin State and another in the vicinity of Mogok in Mandalay Division. The ore is supposedly transported to a Thabeikkyin refinery, conveniently located between the two alleged mines.

Until such reports can be verified, or refuted, speculations remain. But a nuclear-powered Burma would be a nightmare for all neighbors and would upset the balance of power in the region. All that is certain is that Burma has a nuclear program. It may be years, if not decades, away from developing nuclear-weapons capability. But the fact that the country’s military leadership experiments with nuclear power is cause for concern.

Bertil Lintner is a Swedish journalist based in Thailand and the author of several works on Asia, including “Blood Brothers: The Criminal Underworld of Asia” and “Great Leader, Dear Leader: Demystifying North Korea under the Kim Clan.”

Reprinted with permission from YaleGlobal Online—www.yaleglobal.yale.edu . Copyright 2008 Yale Center for the Study of Globalization.

Last Updated
Dec 10, 2008


Written by Lwin Aung Soe

December 12, 2008 at 2:52 am

Posted in Varieties in English

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World focus on Burma (4 December 2008)

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Zarganar and Nay Phone Latt win international prize
Democratic Voice of Burma, Norway –
Dec 4, 2008 (DVB)–Reporters Without Borders has awarded one of its annual prizes to Burmese comedian and activist Zarganar and blogger Nay Phone Latt, …

Burmese Try to Anticipate Junta’s Next Election Move
The Irrawaddy News Magazine, Thailand –
… sources in Burma said. Meanwhile, the regime is pushing to complete preparations for voter registration. On Thursday, the state-run New Light of Myanmar …

Fiji: How to change the government from within?
Global Voices Online, MA –
Thais are doing it (but we don’t want violence, that I understand), the Burmese monks did it, Pakis did it, etc etc..even the LADIES IN WHITE of Communist …

UAW not to blame for auto woes
Port Huron Times Herald, MI –
East Pakistan shared a border with Burma, now the Union of Myanmar. West Pakistan shares a border with Afghanistan. In 1971, East Pakistan separated from …

Rangoon Division PDC office to relocate
Mizzima.com, India –
by Mizzima News Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Burma’s military junta has ordered the office of the Rangoon Division Peace and Development Council (PDC) be shifted …

The Drama of 2008
The Irrawaddy News Magazine, Thailand –
By KYAW ZWA MOE Events in Burma during 2008 added up to a drama packed with mixed emotions. They began with an appalling disaster, arousing sympathy and …

Zarganar, Other Dissidents Sent to Remote Prisons
The Irrawaddy News Magazine, Thailand –
… to his outspoken criticism of the Burmese junta, was transferred from Rangoon’s Insein Prison to Myitkyina Prison in Kachin State, the sources said. …

Cuban journalist, North Korean radio station and two Burmese …
Reporters without borders (press release), France –
The other 2008 nominees in this category were: Chrono-tm.org (Turkmenistan), Democracy Now! (United States), Contravía (Colombia), Wechange.org (Iran) and …

Who are the Elders, Can They Resolve World Crises?
radiovop.com, Zimbabwe –
… former Irish president and UN Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, and, in absentia, Burmese democracy activist Aung Sun Suu Kyi. …

Ban Rules Out Visit to Burma
The Irrawaddy News Magazine, Thailand –
Inspired by Aung San Suu Kyi, the pro-democracy icon, Bush has been instrumental in pushing for US sanctions against the Burmese military junta and its …

Now I’m allowed to be offensive, I realise I’ve got nothing …
New Statesman, UK –
… there was another show to raise money and awareness for the plight of Zarganar, Burma’s most famous comedian. He has just had his 45-year prison …

Israel opens Gaza border to foreign journalists, aid workers
Ha’aretz, Israel –
… Jo Floto noted that the only countries in the world where BBC journalists are currently denied access are North Korea, Myanmar (Burma) and Zimbabwe. …

RP hosts 18th ASEAN Armies Rifle Meet in Tarlac
Balita.org, UK –
The 10 ASEAN member countries are Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. …

Ban will not visit Burma, despite calls by former world leaders
Mizzima.com, India –
But Montas on said the secretary general “said he would like to visit Myanmar [Burma] again to discuss a broad range of issues but that he will not be able …

Former World Leaders want Political Prisoners Freed in Burma
The Epoch Times, NY –
By Cindy Chan Burmese pro-democracy supporters in New Delhi hold portraits of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi at a protest against the Burmese …

Ethnic leaders dismayed by experts’ dismissal
Shan Herald Agency for News, Thailand –
by admin — last modified 2008-12-04 07:34 Ethnic ceasefire leaders say they are disappointed with “blanket rejection” by Burma experts about the ruling …

Chevron acquitted in Nigeria human rights case
World War 4 Report, NY –
In 2005, Unocal settled a similar lawsuit brought by 15 villagers from Burma alleging the company was responsible for forced labor, rapes and a murder ..

Myanmar appeal by former world leaders
Famagusta Gazette, Cyprus –
… appealed to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to press for the release of political prisoners in Myanmar, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. …

Bombay vs. Mumbai
The Plank on TNR.com, DC –
The Burma/Myanmar issue hinges on whether you think its ruling military junta is legitimate. No such ambiguity attaches to Mumbai. …

Volunteer — here, there, anywhere
Daily Trojan Online, CA –
Students were preparing to teach English to Burmese refugees. But in true Trojan spirit, university administrators are now attempting to find new …

Milton students’ work ‘amazing”
Danville News, PA –
… newspaper published in Phnom Penh, and he recently began publishing “The Burma Daily,” an online newspaper for the country now known as Myanmar.

Polluting, even as he exits
Boston Globe, United States –
But after mobs shut down Bangkok’s international airport last week, stranding 300000 travelers, and a politicized Constitutional Court banned Thailand’s …

The UN’s Racist Conference On Racism
Forbes, NY –
… this was more than twice the number of UNHRC criticisms leveled during that same period at North Korea, Burma and Sudan combined. …

No UN push over Myanmar prisoners
Aljazeera.net, Qatar –

She added that Ibrahim Gambari, Ban’s special envoy to Myanmar, would also not return to the country formerly known as Burma, until he had a “real …

Dissent Of The Day
Atlantic Online –
For Hitchens, and now you, to state that the Bombay-Mumbai name change is akin to the Burma-Myanmar change is very insulting to this Mumbaikar proud of her …

World leaders pressure UN on Burmese prisoners
Radio Australia, Australia –
Last month, over 100 Burmese monks, journalists, lawyers and relief workers were each given long sentences in prison. Speaker: Jared Genser, US-based human …

Uncertain Future
AsianWeek, CA –
In Burma, the tolls of Cyclone Nargis became clearer: At least 85000 were killed with thousands more still missing, many probably washed out to sea, …

World leaders press UN chief on Myanmar prisoners
The Associated Press –
Ban traveled to Myanmar, also known as Burma, last May after Cyclone Nargis devastated coastal areas. Setting aside political considerations, he persuaded …

Accused killer’s mental competency delays hearing
Salt Lake Tribune, United States –
The defense has also raised questions about Met’s age, noting that there are no birth records for him in either Burma or Thailand, where Met was confined to …

‘No More Slaves’
The Asian Pacific Post, Canada –
Creative World Justice hopes Singapore will lead the way in guaranteeing basic human rights and dignity to its “enslaved” domestic workers. …

Burma Banishes Hip-Hop Star and Others to Remote Prisons
Voice of America –
By VOA News Relatives of imprisoned political dissidents in Burma said the country’s military rulers have dispatched seven more political detainees, …

Yahoo!7 Top Web Search Results Reveal Aussies Interests in 2008
e-Travel Blackboard (press release), Australia –
Chinese earthquake; Cyclone Nargis, the worst natural disaster in the recorded history of Burma; and finally Large Hadron Collier, the world’s largest and ..

Latest news in Regional news brief
MorungExpress, India –
Dimapur, December 3, (MExN): According to police sources, two cadres of GPRN/NSCN were held from Burma Camp today at around 10:30 am and two 9mm (including …

Films in competition
Los Angeles Times, CA –

“Burma VJ” / Denmark (Director: Anders Oestergaard)—In September 2007, Burmese journalists risking life imprisonment to report from inside their sealed-off …

Entrepreneurial and Leadership Skills Prove to be the Tipping …
MarketWatch –
One of a few international organizations with an extensive presence in Myanmar’s Irrawaddy Delta region following Cyclone Nargis, Pact was the first on the …

ASEAN projects to push through
Inquirer.net, Philippines –
The ASEAN groups together the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar (Burma. …

Gilles Duceppe is not the devil
Canada.com, Canada –
Last night, a friend from Burma commented on how remarkable it is to see opposition parties working together to actually, you know, oppose a government, …

Burma Must Not Be Forgotten
The Women’s International Perspective, CA –
The lack of health care, educational facilities, economic mismanagement, and ongoing severe human rights abuses drive many people out of the country. …

A Luxury Cruise in Harm’s Way
New York Times Blogs, NY –
… colony of Burma” — after Cyclone Nargis devastated Myanmar in May and the ruling military junta deepened the crisis by blocking aid efforts afterward. …

Bangkok Tourist Scene Update
Gather.com, MA –
After the court decision the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) declared an end to the occupation of both Bangkok airports, following their withdrawal …

Burma’s Nuclear Temptation
YaleGlobal Online, CT –
At a press conference in Rangoon on January 21, 2002, Vice-Chief of Military Intelligence Major-General Kyaw Win issued a statement: “Myanmar’s …

Energy blues: a comparative analysis
The Post, Pakistan –
The future security of India is fully dependent on nuclear power plants, similar to the French model, and pipelines from Iran or from the areas like Burma …

Asian Chronicles
Hartford Advocate, CT –
They lived a few blocks from Aung San Suu Kyi, the duly elected president of the country who has been under house arrest for 20 years. …


Written by Lwin Aung Soe

December 4, 2008 at 4:10 am

RECOGNITION OF BURMA’S PROLIFERATION

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RECOGNITION OF BURMA’S PROLIFERATION


By Roland Watson
November 13, 2008

Zee News India recently reported that at the request of the United States a North Korean cargo plane was denied permission to fly through Indian airspace to get to Iran. This incident, which occurred on August 7th, was also covered in a Wall Street Journal article in the edition of November 1-2nd. According to the Journal, the U.S. request was “part of the Bush Administration’s Proliferation Security Initiative, which aims to block the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Any action under the initiative would be ordered only if the plane was suspected of carrying nuclear materials, long-range missile components or other potentially lethal cargo.”

The only cargo possibility that was mentioned, by either Zee News or the Journal, was missile components. We believe it is naïve to suggest that cooperation between Iran and North Korea is limited to this extent. More likely, there is nuclear cooperation as well, which the intelligence community has either been unable to document, or which, for whatever reasons, it wants to keep secret.

The last scenario is the most likely, since North Korea was caught helping Syria build a nuclear reactor, which facility Israel destroyed. It would be surprising if the same type of cooperation with Iran – assistance with its program to develop nuclear weapons – were not underway. (Impoverished North Korea is an aggressive arms merchant.) Also, it seems clear that the U.S. has an effective intelligence capability, directed at the North, since it was able to identify this particular flight.

The Journal article was notable for what it didn’t mention: the role of Burma in the developing nuclear and ballistic missile proliferation nexus between North Korea and Iran. The flight had proceeded from Pyongyang to Mandalay, from where its departure to Iran was blocked. It would also be naïve to think that this was simply a refueling stop. The flight repeats a pattern of naval shipments from Pyongyang, which were unloaded under top secrecy at Rangoon Thilawa Port at night, and which ships we understand in at least one case then proceeded onward to Iran.

Dictator Watch has previously reported, based on information from our own sources, that Burma is pursuing a nuclear development program with atomic weapons as the ultimate objective. The principal partner in this program is Russia, which has agreed to supply a 10 MW reactor, and which is now being constructed. This is a repeat of the proliferation that the Soviet Union orchestrated with North Korea in the 1970s and 80s, and North Korean technicians are reportedly involved in the Burmese project, if not directing its on-ground activities.

China played an important role in Burma’s proliferation. In May 2001, former Foreign Minister Win Aung together with General Maung Aye spoke to Burmese State Scholars who were to study in Russia. Win Aung said: China wants us to work with Russia on a nuclear program and to try to develop nuclear weapons in the future.”

Cooperation between Burma and Russia soured in 2006, because the Burmese scholars were not dedicated to their education and the military junta, the SPDC, failed to pay the program’s costs. At that time, and even though cooperation with Russia subsequently was resumed, Burma approached North Korea and Iran for assistance with its nuclear initiative.

Burma further has short-range ballistic missiles, acquired from North Korea. We believe these are Scud variant missiles, not the more sophisticated devices that have been tested by the North within the last year.

Burma also has commercial uranium deposits, which the regime itself has admitted. Our sources inform us that uranium mining and milling is in progress, and that the end product, yellowcake, has been sold to both North Korea and Iran. Regarding the former, the most contentious disarmament issue for the United States has been the extent of the North’s uranium enrichment program, and such program’s decommissioning. Similarly, there is great concern about Iran‘s enrichment program. We believe Burma is supplying both programs with the raw material, and further that it has its own enrichment effort (with centrifuge facilities near Kyauk Kyi village in Tha Beik Kyin township, and Naung Hlaing village in Pyin Oo Lwin township).

Section Ten of the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE (Junta’s Anti-Democratic Efforts) Act of 2008 requires the Secretary of State to prepare a report, not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of the Act (July 29) on military and intelligence aid to Burma. This includes the provision of weapons of mass destruction and related materials, capabilities, and technology, including nuclear, chemical, or dual-use capabilities.

The report is therefore due by the end of January, and it is to be submitted to the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate. It will have unclassified and classified forms, the first of which will be placed on the Department of State’s website.

This past summer, the resistance forces in Eastern Burma intercepted Burma Army communications that unmanned drones had been spotted in the Toungoo area of the country (near the junta’s capital, Napyidaw), on three separate occasions, and which the Army unsuccessfully tried to shoot down. It seems clear that there is a significant effort to ascertain fully the extent of Burma‘s proliferation programs, in part to prepare for the Secretary’s report. We are fully supportive of this effort, and hope that the Obama Administration will use its results to press for a proper examination of Burma and the risk the SPDC poses to international security and peace.

For the last eight years, the Burma pro-democracy movement has looked to President Bush for assistance. However, other than some comforting words, he did nothing. Congress initiated all the substantive freedom and democracy initiatives for Burma.

Now we have a new administration. President-elect Obama, at his first news conference, said of Iran, its development of a nuclear weapon, I believe, is unacceptable… We have to mount an international effort to prevent that from happening.”

We believe it is essential that he extend this policy to Burma, in the first instance by personally disclosing the results of U.S. intelligence. The SPDC has an active nuclear program – there have been high level visits with North Korea and China in the last two weeks. The full extent of what is known about this program must be revealed.

The President-elect also said, in his second debate with Senator McCain, that he would provide logistical support for the peacekeeping forces in Darfur, Sudan, including by setting up a no-fly zone. We would ask the new President to take similar action with respect to Burma, by imposing a naval and air blockade of all arms shipments to the SPDC. This would leave only the land border with China as a transit point for military materiel.

The big question for Barack Obama is if he can live up to his words, if he can fulfill the hope that he offers. To do this, he must confront a world that is complex, challenging, and dangerous. He is now in the major leagues, and to be successful, and for the world to improve, he must effectively manage such issues as Iran, North Korea, Burma, and Sudan. To do this, though, he will have to be strong and decisive with the backers of these regimes, and through which backing such problems have proved to be intractable. He will have to stand up to Russia and China, and find some way to get them to relent.

Source: Dictator Watch – http://www.dictatorwatch.org/articles/proliferation.html

…..

DICTATOR WATCH

(www.dictatorwatch.org)

Contact: Roland Watson, roland@dictatorwatch.org

RECOGNITION OF BURMA’S PROLIFERATION

November 13, 2008

Please forward.

We have a new article about Burma’s role in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction by North Korea and Iran, including the ongoing efforts by the intelligence community to investigate such proliferation. This article concludes that the new Obama Administration must disclose what it knows about the activities of Burma’s military junta, the SPDC. It is time for formal recognition, by the United States and also the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nations Security Council, that the SPDC is both working to develop atomic weapons and also playing an important role in related international proliferation.

http://www.dictatorwatch.org/articles/proliferation.html

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

November 14, 2008 at 12:57 am

Nuclear bond for North Korea and Myanmar

By Norman Robespierre

YANGON – A recent flurry of high-level contacts between North Korea and Myanmar raises new nuclear proliferation concerns between the two pariah states, one of which already possesses nuclear-weapon capabilities and the other possibly aspiring.

At least three delegations led by flag-level officers from Myanmar’s army have traveled to Pyongyang in the past three months, hot on the heels of the two sides’ re-establishment last year of formal diplomatic relations. According to a source familiar with the travel itineraries of Myanmar officials, Brigadier General Aung Thein Lin visited North Korea in mid-September.

Before that, other Myanmar military delegations visited North Korea, including a group headed in August by Lieutenant General Tin Aye, chief of the Office of Chief Defense Industries, and another led in July by Lieutenant General Myint Hlaing, the chief of Air Defence.

The rapid-fire visits have gone beyond goodwill gestures and the normal diplomatic niceties of re-establishing ties. Rather, the personalities involved in the visits indicate that Myanmar is not only seeking weapons procurements, but also probable cooperation in establishing air defense weaponry, missiles, rockets or artillery production facilities.

The secretive visits are believed to entail a Myanmar quest for tunneling technology and possible assistance in developing its nascent nuclear program. Tin Aye and Myint Hlaing, by virtue of their positions as lieutenant generals, are logical choices to head official delegations in search of weapons technology for Myanmar’s military, while Brigadier General Aung Thein Lin, current mayor of Yangon and chairman of the city’s development committee, was formerly deputy minister of Industry-2, responsible for all industrial development in the country.

Prior to 1998, the minister of Industry-2 also served as the chairman of the Myanmar Atomic Energy Committee. This came to an end when Myanmar’s Atomic Energy Act of 1998 designated the Ministry of Science and Technology as the lead government agency for its aspirant nuclear program. However, the Ministry of Industry-2, by virtue of its responsibilities for construction of industrial facilities and the provision of equipment, continues to play a key supporting role in Myanmar’s nuclear program.

Myanmar’s stagnant nuclear program was revitalized shortly after Pakistan’s first detonation of nuclear weapons in May 1998. Senior general and junta leader Than Shwe signed the Atomic Energy Law on June 8, 1998, and the timing of the legislation so soon after Pakistan’s entry into the nuclear club did little to assuage international concerns about Myanmar’s nuclear intentions. Some analysts believe the regime may eventually seek nuclear weapons for the dual purpose of international prestige and strategic deterrence.

Myanmar’s civilian-use nuclear ambitions made global headlines in early 2001, when Russia’s Atomic Energy Committee indicated it was planning to build a research reactor in the country. The following year, Myanmar’s deputy foreign minister, Khin Maung Win, publicly announced the regime’s decision to build a nuclear research reactor, citing the country’s difficulty in importing radio-isotopes and the need for modern technology as reasons for the move.

The country reportedly sent hundreds of soldiers for nuclear training in Russia that same year and the reactor was scheduled for delivery in 2003. However, the program was shelved due to financial difficulties and a formal contract for the reactor, under which Russia agreed to build a nuclear research center along with a 10 megawatt reactor, was not signed until May 2007.

The reactor will be fueled with non-weapons grade enriched uranium-235 and it will operate under the purview of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog. The reactor itself would be ill-suited for weapons development. However, the training activities associated with it would provide the basic knowledge required as a foundation for any nuclear weapons development program outside of the research center.

Constrained reaction
The United States’ reaction to Myanmar’s nuclear developments has been somewhat constrained, despite the George W Bush administration referring to the military-run country as an “outpost of tyranny”.

After Myanmar’s 2002 confirmation of its intent to build the reactor, the US warned the country of its obligations as a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). After the contract was formally announced in May 2007, the US State Department expressed concerns about the country’s lack of adequate safety standards and the potential for proliferation.

The warming and growing rapport between Myanmar and North Korea will likely further heighten Washington’s proliferation concerns. Myanmar broke off diplomatic relations with Pyongyang in 1983, after North Korean agents bombed the Martyr’s mausoleum in Yangon in an attempt to assassinate the visiting South Korean president, Chun Doo-hwan.

The explosion killed more than 20 people, mostly South Korean officials, including the deputy prime minister and the foreign minister, and the South Korean ambassador to Myanmar. Four Myanmar nationals perished and dozens more were wounded in the blast. Myanmar severed ties with North Korea after an investigation revealed the three agents responsible for planting the bomb spent the night at a North Korean diplomat’s house before setting out on their mission.

However, common interests have brought the two secretive nations back together. The famine in North Korea in the late 1990s and Myanmar’s military expansion ambitions, including a drive for self-sufficiency in production, have fostered recent trade flows. While Myanmar has the agricultural surplus to ease North Korean hunger, Pyongyang possesses the weapons and technological know-how needed to boost Yangon’s military might. There is also speculation Myanmar might provide uranium, mined in remote and difficult-to-monitor areas, to North Korea.

As testament to Pyongyang’s willingness to supply weapons to the military regime, more North Korean ship visits have been noted at Thilawa port in Yangon, one of the country’s primary receipt points for military cargo. During one of these visits in May 2007, two Myanmar nationals working for Japan’s News Network were detained outside Yangon while covering a suspected arms delivery by a North Korean vessel.

Growing bilateral trade has helped to heal old diplomatic wounds and eventually led to a joint communique re-establishing diplomatic relations in April 2007. The emerging relationship is also a natural outgrowth of the ostracism each faces in the international arena, including the economic sanctions imposed and maintained against them by the West.

While it is possible the recent visits are related to Myanmar’s nascent nuclear program, the evidence is far from conclusive. Nevertheless, Myanmar has undoubtedly taken notice of the respect that is accorded to North Korea on the world stage because of its nuclear weapon status. Unlike North Korea, Myanmar is a signatory to the NPT.

Myanmar has publicly stated it seeks nuclear technology only for peaceful purposes, such as developing radio-isotopes for agricultural use and medical research. Yet two well-placed sources told this reporter that North Korean and Iranian technicians were already advising Myanmar on a possible secret nuclear effort, running in parallel to the aboveboard Russia-supported program. Asia Times Online could not independently confirm the claim.

The lack of participation by Myanmar’s Ministry of Science and Technology in the recent trips to Pyongyang would seem to indicate that nuclear developments were probably not the primary focus of the high-level meetings. The regime is also known to be interested in North Korea’s tunneling technology (see Myanmar and North Korea share a tunnel vision, Asia Times Online, July 19, 2006) in line with the ruling junta’s siege mentality and apparent fears of a possible US-led pre-emptive military attack.

The junta and others have no doubt noted the extraordinary problems tunneling and cave complexes have caused US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention the success North Korea has enjoyed in hiding underground its nuclear facilities. Bunkers are rumored to underlie several buildings at Naypyidaw, where the regime abruptly moved the national capital in 2005. The ongoing construction of a second capital, for the hot season, at Yadanapon, is also believed to have tunnels and bunkers integrated into its layout.

Whether the visits are related to arms procurement, military industrial development, tunneling technology or nuclear exchange, they foreshadow a potentially dangerous trend for Myanmar’s non-nuclear Southeast Asian neighbors and their Western allies, including the US.

As the true nature of the budding bilateral relationship comes into closer view, the risk is rising that Pyongyang and Yangon are conspiring to create a security quandary in Southeast Asia akin to the one now vexing the US and its allies on the Korean Peninsula.

Norman Robespierre, a pseudonym, is a freelance journalist specializing in Sino-Asian affairs.

(Copyright 2008 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Southeast_Asia/JJ04Ae01.html

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

October 4, 2008 at 3:03 am

Posted in Varieties in English

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