Burma abstains from UN nuclear resolution

Nov 4, 2009 (DVB), The Burmese government has abstained from a draft United Nations resolution on nuclear disarmament billed as a "leading proactive measure" towards non-proliferation.

The draft resolution was however adopted by the UN general assembly last week by an "overwhelming majority of 170 in favor to two against", according to the Japanese foreign ministry. It was Japan who submitted it.

A foreign ministry statement said that the resolution "incorporates a high evaluation of the constructive role of civil society in nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation".

Fears over Burma's nuclear ambitions have strengthened in the past six months in tandem with what appears to be a cosying relationship with North Korea, who along with India rejected the resolution.

An investigation published in August by Australian academic Desmond Ball and journalist Phil Thornton that quoted evidence from two Burmese army defectors interviewed about apparent nuclear programmes in Burma further fuelled concerns.

A senior-level United States delegation is now in Burma to kick-start a new policy of engagement with the country's military rulers.

Senior US officials have stated that Washington is looking to draw Burma away from North Korea, which has been the subject of UN sanctions since it carried out a successful nuclear test in May.

While no solid evidence that the Burmese government is developing nuclear weaponry has come to light, observers believe the intention could be there.

"A lot of countries dream of nuclear power, either for weapons or peaceful research," said Burmese political analyst Aung Naing Oo, adding that "I'm not in the least bit surprised that Burma abstained".

"Especially a country like Burma which has been isolated for so long, they look around and see countries that can stand shoulder to shoulder with superpowers that own, or are in the process of owning, nuclear weapons."

China, France, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, Cuba and Bhutan also abstained from the resolution. Both China and Israel are leading weapons suppliers to the Burmese junta.

Aung Naing Oo added that the abstention may have held a more symbolic meaning beyond just the ambitions of a country looking to bolster its defence.

"A lot of countries with problems want to handle their own affairs using the question of sovereignty, and they don't want interference from any other countries," he said. "Burma has used this non-interference to prevent international meddling."

Reporting by Francis Wade

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