Burma reassures Japan on nuclear ambitions

Oct 5, 2009 (DVB), Burma has told Japan that it does not intend to develop nuclear weaponry, but said it will continue to work with Russia on a nuclear energy programme.

Suspicions of Burma's nuclear ambitions have been heightened in recent months following an apparent warming of relations with North Korea.

The United States has repeatedly expressed concern about the relationship, and its recent policy shift on Burma appears to be in part a reaction to this.

Speaking on the sidelines of a Japan-Mekong ministerial meeting in Cambodia, Burma foreign minister Nyan Win reportedly told his Japanese counterpart, Katsuya Okada, that any nuclear programmes were peaceful.

"(Nyan Win) told Japan’s foreign minister that Myanmar [Burma] has no intention to have a nuclear weapon," a Japanese foreign ministry spokesperson told Reuters reporters at the meeting.

"Myanmar has conducted a consultation to have assistance from Russia for a peaceful use of nuclear energy."

According to a Burmese military analyst, however, the announcement was similar to statements made by Burma to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

"But according to facts we have gathered, we see that the junta has plans to develop a modernised army by gaining nuclear weapons," said Htay Aung.

"We have also obtained information that the technology minister, U Thaung, was individually assigned by Senior General Than Shwe to develop a nuclear bomb."

He said the plans have been in place since 2000, and many Burmese students were being sent to Russia and North Korea to learn about nuclear technology.

Several incidents this year have compounded fears about North Korean assistance in bolstering Burma's military muscle, although no hard evidence has yet come to light about Burma's progress on nuclear weaponry.

In July a South Korean newspaper reported that North Korea was illegally exporting weapons to Burma via overland routes through China, to avoid naval or air detection.

The news followed reports that a North Korean ship being tracked by the US navy on suspicion that it is carrying weapons appeared to be heading towards Burma, before turning around.

Reporting by Min Lwin

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