IAEA ‘assessing’ Burma nuclear claims

The world’s leading nuclear energy watchdog has said it is investigating reports that Burma is looking to develop nuclear weaponry and may look for clarification from the military government.

“We have seen the related articles in the media and we are now assessing the information,” the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Yukiya Amano, said on Monday. “And, if necessary, we will seek clarification from Myanmar [Burma].”

A five-year investigation by DVB has unearthed evidence that Burma is mining uranium and developing equipment for a nuclear weapon. A collection of photographs and intelligence documents handed to DVB by a Burmese defector was analysed by a former director in the IAEA, Robert Kelley, who also examined evidence of a network of some 800 military bunkers being built beneath Burma.

Burma became party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 2002, but Kelley believes that the evidence proves the ruling regime is exploring nuclear technology that is “useful only for weapons”.

When contacted by DVB, the IAEA refused to elaborate on what plan of action it would be taking, nor whether they were hopeful that the Burmese government would respond to requests for clarification.

The agency may however have its hands tied with the announcement today that it will begin looking into the nuclear capabilities of Israel, which has steadfastly remained ambiguous about its nuclear means but which, along with India and Pakistan, is one of only three countries never to have signed the NPT.

Amnesty International claims that Israel is one of the six major suppliers of arms to Burma, although there is no evidence that nuclear-related material has passed between the two countries.

It has also been closely monitoring developments in North Korea since Pyongyang carried out its first nuclear test in October 2006, three years after it withdrew from the NPT.

Despite a UN arms embargo on North Korea, DVB’s investigation found that the two pariahs had traded in material used to develop intermediate-range ballistic missiles, although Kelley believes that North Korea’s role in Burma’s nuclear programme was only “anecdotal”.

Yet the concerns about a relationship between Southeast Asia two ‘rogue’ states were substantial enough to cause US senator Jim Webb to cancel a high-profile visit to Burma last week. He said that a visit would be “unwise and potentially counterproductive” in light of the evidence.

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