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

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory 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.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid