Tuesday, August 4, 2009

US Voices Concern over Burma, N Korea Nuclear Nexus

The Irrawaddy News

WASHINGTON — The United States expressed concern on Monday over news reports that North Korea may be helping the Burmese military regime to achieve its nuclear ambitions.

“It is an issue of concern and it is an issue that we continue to focus on intensively,” the assistant secretary of state for public affairs, Philip J Crowley, told reporters at the State Department headquarters.

Although he refrained from making any comment on the alleged underground nuclear facility being developed by North Korea inside Burma, Crowley said the US was concerned about “the nature of cooperation between North Korea and Burma.”

“We do have concerns about the nature of cooperation between both Burma and North Korea, and North Korea and any other country. As the Secretary [of State Hillary Clinton] did during her recent trip, she argued quite forcefully that all countries have responsibilities regarding the UN sanctions and we are [working] hard at implementing them,” Crowley said.

“I think over time, we would like to clarify with Burma more precisely the nature of its military cooperation,” he said.

“The Secretary was encouraged that Burma said that it would abide by its responsibilities under the sanctions that were recently passed by the UN, and we will be looking to see them implement those sanctions,” Crowley said.

Meanwhile, Thailand’s National Security Council chief Thawil Pliensri has ordered intelligence officials to verify reports the Burmese military regime is building a nuclear reactor with a plan to make a nuclear bomb within five years, as reported in the English-language daily, The Bangkok Post.

But Thawil was quoted as saying that so far no evidence has been found that points to a Burmese nuclear program.

On Saturday, the Australian newspaper, The Sydney Morning Herald, reported that Burma appears to be establishing nuclear facilities with help from North Korea and Russia, possibly with the intent of producing nuclear weapons.

The newspaper, citing two Burmese defectors who were interviewed in-depth over two years by Australian strategic studies analyst Desmond Ball and Thailand-based journalist Phil Thornton, claimed that Burma has secretly constructed a nuclear reactor that would encompass reprocessing technology designed to extract weapons-grade plutonium.

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