Monday, June 29, 2009

North Korea Can Allay Fear at Regional Forum

The Irrawaddy News

North Korea should calm regional fears by explaining its relations with Burma at the 16th Asean Regional Forum (ARF) to be held in Phuket, Thailand, July16-23.

An editorial in the Bangkok Post, Monday, stated ARF would be the perfect forum for North Korea to explain its recent actions and lay out its future plans.

“An unauthorized nuclear project, even without weapons capability, would pose a serious threat to the ecology of Thailand and the region,” the editorial declared.

The editorial said, “The world including Thailand views North Korea as a dangerous country, addicted to frightening threats of nuclear attacks and weapons trafficking on any scale it chooses.”

North Korean has a record of selling arms and military technology to Burma. It is suspected that this may include secretive nuclear technology.

The North Korean cargo ship, Kang Nam, that recently left North Korea for Burma could be carrying weapons.

North Korea’s military support for Burma may be considered a serious issue at the forum, according to analysts.

“ARF is supposed to be a forum for regional security, so we hope that they will consider issues related to comprehensive security as part of an Asean plan of action,” Debbie Stothard, coordinator of the Bangkok-based Alternative Asean Network on Burma said to The Irrawaddy.

“North Korea is definitely a very serious issue,” she added. “ARF hasn’t been taking the situation in Burma seriously, and consequently they don’t have any plan of action.”

“In effect ARF is allowing Burma to become another North Korea, which is a danger to the region,” Stothard said.

By bringing Asian and Western powers together, ARF can provide an important forum for discussing the array of dangers arising from North Korea's illegal weapons trafficking to Burma, according to Burma political analysts.

ARF was founded in 1994 to promote open dialogue on political and security issues and to build trust among its members through dialogue and confidence-building measures.

Twenty seven nations currently participate in ARF. They automatically include Asean member states as well as Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, China, European Union, India, Japan, Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea, Republic of Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Russian Federation, Sri Lanka, Timor Leste and the United States.

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