July 9, 2009 (DVB), The United States has expressed concern over the possibility of an emerging nexus between North Korea and Burma that would see the two countries trade in material for nuclear proliferation.
The issue of Burma's nuclear ambitions, and North Korea's role in achieving these, has been thrown into the spotlight over the past month following an incident in which a North Korean ship carrying suspect cargo was thought to be heading toward Burma, before making a U-turn last week.
A network of underground tunnels constructed throughout Burma with the help of North Korean advisers was also recently exposed by DVB, with intercepted intelligence documents revealing the possibility of them accommodating heavy weaponry.
A senior US State Department official during a press briefing yesterday was questioned about whether strengthening ties between North Korea and Burma were related to respective nuclear ambitions.
"I think we’re concerned about trade and cooperation between countries that have undertaken nuclear programs, but I don’t want to go much further than that," he said.
On the subject of the North Korean ship, the Kang Nam 1, the official said that its decision not to arrive in Burma was perhaps a result of "a combination of sharing information with many of the countries in the region" about obligations to inspect and warn on suspect ships.
The US navy had been closely monitoring the Kang Nam 1, which arrived back in North Korea yesterday, following new UN sanctions on Pyongyang that banned the export of any weapons material.
Burma is also under far-reaching sanctions from both the US and European Union.
Journalist and North Korea expert Bertil Lintner said last month that the two incidences are a sign that ties between the countries are strengthening.
"Even China is reluctant to sell certain types of equipment to Burma but North Korea will be willing to sell anything they want," he said, adding that "Burma has absolutely no interest in supporting an arms embargo".
Reporting by Francis Wade