Burma dismisses nuclear ‘stereotyping’

Allegations that Burma has the intent to develop a nuclear bomb are false and an attempt to stereotype the country, Burma’s ambassador to Singapore has said.

Last week DVB revealed the results of a five-year investigation that provide proof that Burma is trying to build nuclear weaponry. The evidence, provided in large part by a Burmese defector, Sai Thein Win, who worked on the junta’s military weapons programme, has been corroborated by Robert Kelley, a former director in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

But the report, picked up by media across the world, is “not true”, ambassador Win Myint told My Paper in Singapore yesterday at the end of the three-day Shangri-La Dialogue security conference.

“It stereotypes our country. If [we wanted to] know how to produce nuclear bombs, we need infrastructure and technology,” he said. He also dismissed claims that North Korea had been involved in providing material and technological assistance for the programme.

Burma’s deputy defense minister, Aye Myint, was due to attend the summit but pulled out at the last minute, likely in relation to the exposé. The country’s leaders have repeatedly denied they are developing nuclear weaponry, although several army defectors have in recent years talked of nuclear programmes in the pariah state.

DVB’s findings add further weight to concerns about a clandestine weapons trade between North Korea and Burma, both of whom are subject to tight arms embargos.

North Korea, one of eight countries known to possess nuclear weaponry, carried out its latest nuclear test in May 2009, following which the UN enacted Resolution 1874 requiring all member states to inspect cargo leaving North Korea.

But analysts believe the relationship has carried over a number of years, surfacing briefly in 2007 after a suspect North Korean vessel, the Kang Nam 1, docked at a Rangoon port. It made a similar trip in June last year but eventually turned back before reaching Rangoon after it was closely tracked by the US navy.

Despite the poor state of Burma’s economy, huge sales of gas and hydropower electricity to neighbouring countries, particularly China and Thailand, are believed to have financed the wider project, which includes the development of a network of underground military bunkers across Burma.

Equipment shown by the defector has led Kelley to conclude that Burma is mining uranium and developing prototypes for a weapon, although the “poor” condition of the equipment means that the country is a long way from achieving its ambition.

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