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Defectors outline Burma’s nuclear ambitions

Aug 3, 2009 (DVB), Burma and North Korea may be collaborating on the development of a nuclear reactor in northern Burma, according to experts who carried out extensive interviews with two Burmese defectors.

One of the two defectors, who are both now based in Thailand, is a former army officer, while the other was an executive at Htoo Trading, a company with close ties to the military junta.

During interviews carried out over the course of two years with Phil Thornton, a Thailand-based journalist, and Desmond Ball of the Australian National University, the two men detailed North Korea's assistance in helping Burma acquire a nuclear weapon.

The report, published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 1 August, said that the junta was building a nuclear reactor and plutonium extraction plant in northern Burma, much of it hidden in a network of tunnels dug into a mountain at Nuang Laing.

The report will add weight to a body of evidence that has emerged over the past two months that points to North Korea's assistance in helping Burma develop a nuclear weapon.

In June DVB published a report on Burma's secret network of tunnels, dug with North Korea's assistance, with leaked intelligence documents saying the tunnels could accommodate heavy weaponry.

And in June a North Korean ship, the Kang Nam 1, that was being tracked by the US navy on suspicion that it was carrying arms in violation of a UN resolution on North Korea, appeared to be headed towards Burma before turning around.

At the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) regional forum last month, US Secreatry of State Hillary Clinton spoke of concern over Burma's nuclear ambitions.

Htay Aung, a Burmese military analyst at the Network for Democracy and Development, said that Burma's acquisition of nuclear technology would add a new dynamic to Asia's regional security threat.

"If the junta has nuclear arms then there will be problem for everyone, including countries like China and India who have always been saying Burma is not a regional threat," he said.

"We still can't tell if countries like North Korea and Iran, those who already are in a hold of nuclear arms, are not going to sell their weapons to Burma.

"There is a chance that they will consider Burma, who is also facing against the US just like them, as a friend and sell nuclear weapons to the junta," he said.

Reporting by Ahunt Phone Myat

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