Friday, August 7, 2009

North Korea Helping Burma Develop Nuclear Weapons

Burma may be trying to develop a nuclear bomb, according to accounts by two Burmese defectors, the Sydney Morning Herald reported August 1.

The two defectors—who had never met—both described a secret nuclear complex that Burma was constructing with North Korean help, much of it in caves tunneled into a mountain at Naung Laing in northern Burma.

Prof. Desmond Ball, who has closely studied the Burmese military, and Phil Thornton, a journalist and expert on Burma, interviewed the two defectors over a period of two years. They concluded that if the defectors’ reports were true, Burma could be nuclear-capable and producing a bomb every year after 2014.

“The evidence is preliminary and needs to be verified, but this is something that would completely change the regional security status quo,” said the head of Thailand’s Institute of Security and International Studies, Thitinan Pongsudhirak, on July 31. “It would move Myanmar [Burma] from not just being a pariah state, but a rogue state—that is, one that jeopardizes the security and well-being of its immediate neighbors.”

Burma is known to be constructing a civilian nuclear reactor with Russia’s help. Both Russia and Burma claim the reactor will be put under international safeguards.

One of the defectors was an officer with a secret nuclear battalion in the Burmese Army, sent to Russia for training. The other was a former executive of one of the military regime’s main business partners, who handled nuclear contracts with Russia and North Korea.

Although defectors’ accounts are not always accurate, these do match with other reports from the region. “All we can say is these two guys never met up with each other, never knew of each other’s existence, and yet they both tell the same story basically,” said Professor Ball.

With states like North Korea and Pakistan possessing the bomb, it is frighteningly easy for rogue nations to get hold of nuclear technology today. Israel destroyed a nuclear reactor being built by North Korea in Syria only two years ago. If Pyongyang is helping Burma get the bomb, the big question is, who else has it helped?

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