News / Asia

Burma's Military Relations with North Korea Under Scrutiny

Soldiers salute Burma's army chief General Min Aung Hlaing during a parade in Naypyitaw, Mar. 27, 2012.
Soldiers salute Burma's army chief General Min Aung Hlaing during a parade in Naypyitaw, Mar. 27, 2012.
Daniel Schearf
Burma's military relations with North Korea are under scrutiny after Japan acknowledged intercepting a shipment of materials officials say could be used for a nuclear program.  A U.S. special advisor visiting in March said Burma needs to convince the world they have severed military relations with Pyongyang if they want suspended sanctions fully lifted. 

Japan on Monday confirmed reports that customs officials last year seized a shipment of aluminum alloy rods, suspected of coming from North Korea, that could be used to make nuclear centrifuges.

Japanese media reported the shipment was bound for Burma but was intercepted from a Singaporean-flagged ship in August after a tip-off from the United States. 

The revelation raised concerns that, despite dramatic political reforms, Burma may be continuing to work on a secret nuclear weapons program and possibly violating U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang.

More reforms needed

Western countries have suspended most diplomatic and economic sanctions on Burma. But last week U.S. special advisor on Burma, Patrick Murphy, said sanctions would not be fully lifted without more political and human rights reforms - as well as a clear break with North Korea.

"We very much hope to be in a position to declare or to accept a declaration that the military relationship between the two countries has been severed.  And, we have fruitful dialogue on this issue with authorities here.  And, I think there is a very good understanding about the international concerns vis a vis North Korea," said Murphy.

Military relations with N. Korea

Burma's military government has long been a buyer of North Korean weapons and military supplies. 

Relations between the two were disrupted in 1983 when North Korean agents bombed the delegation of a visiting South Korean president in Rangoon, killing 17 people.

But the two pariah and military-run states resumed ties in secret just a few years later.

In 2010, as Burma was beginning its democratic transition, a defector alleged the military was running a secret nuclear weapons program. Analysts suspected North Korean support.

Nuclear issue

Robert Kelley is a former nuclear engineer with Los Alamos and the U.N. nuclear agency, the IAEA, who looked into the allegations. He says while there was evidence of a nuclear weapons program, he saw no signs of North Korean involvement.

"I can find no evidence whatsoever that North Korea was involved in the nuclear program.  And, I don't think you'll find anyone out there who has that evidence," he said. "If you look particularly at the U.S. government statements, as we've seen this rapprochement with Burma, they carefully have turned the talk away from nuclear only to missiles and conventional."

Reports of the suspect aluminum shipment surfaced in November as U.S. President Barack Obama was about to make history as the first sitting U.S. chief executive to visit Burma.

Earlier in the year, President Thein Sein had promised Burma would stop buying military hardware from Pyongyang and would sign an additional protocol with the IAEA that could allow international inspections.

Burma’s parliament has not yet approved measures that would allow inspections. Authorities also continue to deny operating any nuclear program.

Nuclear expert Kelley says although Burma is likely decades away from producing any nuclear materials, it should still come clean on the program and allow inspections.

"Well, in public, all I've seen is the opposite," he said. "They've said, we will not accept inspections because there's nothing to show.  So, they would be taking the attitude that we have no nuclear materials, no nuclear facilities, as you have defined them legally.  And, since we have nothing like that there's no place to take you, nothing to show you."

VOA requested an interview with Burma's presidential spokesman to respond to the allegations but he was not available for comment.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More