U.S. Senator Richard Lugar, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Burma is fast becoming a threat to security and stability in southeast Asia.
Mr. Lugar heavily criticized Burma's military government for putting the country on what he calls a "dangerous course." In a commentary published Sunday in The Washington Post, the Republican senator from the state of Indiana warned the threat posed by Burma is largely being overlooked by the Western powers.
Senator Lugar said Burma is building a nuclear reactor with help from Russia, and he cites reports that Rangoon is buying missiles from North Korea. He contends that India and China are using Burma as a pawn in their regional rivalry, and that the smaller country has been "cynically" using its position in southeast Asia to foster potential friction.
Mr. Lugar gave examples of how Burma's ruling generals have killed and abused the Burmese people, resisted international sanctions, and recently reimposed house arrest upon the country's pro-democracy leader and Nobel peace laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi.
The senator said the United States should make Burma a priority in its relations with Russia, China, India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Meanwhile, Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri said Burma should clarify its plans regarding pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi ahead of next month's regional summit.
The Jakarta Post newspaper quotes Ms. Megawati as saying Rangoon should specifically state whether it plans to keep Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest or free her immediately. The Indonesian leader made her comments during a state visit to the African nation of Libya.
Indonesia has been trying to persuade Burma to release the pro-democracy leader, who has spent much of the last 15 years under house arrest.
President Megawati said Burma's rulers should make their position clear before leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations hold their summit in Bali.
Both Indonesia and Burma are members of ASEAN, along with Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.