News / USA

US Outreach to Burma May Prompt Fuller Disclosure of North Korea Ties

Former IAEA Director General Hans Blix, speaking to reporters, in Seoul, November 29, 2011
Former IAEA Director General Hans Blix, speaking to reporters, in Seoul, November 29, 2011

A historic visit by the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Burma is seen as a prelude to improving relations between Washington and Naypyidaw. But, for that to happen, the Burmese government may need to reveal details of past covert dealings with North Korea.

President Barack Obama has said he is sending his secretary of state to Burma to see how the United States can help the country support progress on political reform, human rights and national reconciliation. But Mr. Obama also has said Burma's relationship with North Korea is a major issue that needs to be addressed.

U.S. Senator Richard Lugar, from the state of Indiana, who is the ranking Republican member on the Foreign Relations Committee, is calling for any re-engagement with Naypyidaw to include a full disclosure of “the extent and intent of the developing Burmese nuclear program.

The senator says his committee received information, five years ago, that the Burmese government intended to develop nuclear weapons, with the help of North Korea.

A year ago, United Nations investigators released a report accusing North Korea of supplying prohibited nuclear and ballistic equipment to Burma, Iran and Syria, surreptitiously, to avoid international sanctions.

Burma, also known as Myanmar, is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency.  According to International Crisis Group senior analyst Daniel Pinkston, that means the Burmese must come clean on any previous dealing with the North Koreans.

"If there's clear evidence of nuclear cooperation - then, to improve ties with the U.S. and the rest of the international community, Burma would have to fulfill its obligations under the NPT and under its safeguards agreement with the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency].  And, that would mean disclosing any past nuclear cooperation with the DPRK [North Korea], any acquisition of materials, technologies, components and so forth," Pinkston said.

Diplomats and intelligence analysts also point to unconfirmed reports of hundreds of North Korean engineers and scientists visiting or working at Burmese military or other facilities.  But South Korean government officials, speaking to VOA on the condition they not be identified, say they have seen no concrete evidence of that level of cooperation between North Korea and Burma.

Former IAEA director general Hans Blix, who now chairs the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, concurs with that assessment, in regards to a purported Burmese nuclear weapons development program.

"The world has reasons to be worried and inquire about it. There was some defector who spoke about it, but others who discounted it pretty solidly. And, my experience was that they [North Korea] had not come very far," Blix said.

Burmese officials have also denied any pursuit of nuclear weapons, although acknowledging they have considered trying to use atomic technology to produce electricity.  Earlier this year, Burmese officials stated their country was too poor to pursue any type of nuclear program.

Evidence of conventional arms trafficking between Burma and North Korea over the years is more concrete.  On numerous occasions, The U.S. Navy has prevented North Korean ships, suspected of carrying weapons, from reaching Burmese ports.  Analysts say the North Koreans appear to have helped Burma advance its missile capabilities.

Analysts note that any successful previous deliveries could pose diplomatic complications for Burma as it seeks to normalize relations with the international community.  Under the United Nations Security Council resolutions imposed on Pyongyang, all exports and purchases of North Korean weapons, including conventional arms, are also banned.

Burma-North Korean relations have had a rocky history since their establishment in 1962. Burma cut ties with Pyongyang, in 1983, after North Korean agents in Burma tried to assassinate South Korea's president.  The bombing killed 18 high-ranking South Korean officials.

Military ties between Burma and North Korea appear to have resumed in the early 1990s, but the diplomatic relationship was not officially restored until four years ago.

For decades, both countries have been isolated from much of the diplomatic community and global trade because of their repressive governments.

You May Like

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid