Burma, which is ruled by one of the world's strictest and largest
military juntas, has reportedly begun to secure some of the components
necessary for a nuclear weapon. Burma's nuclear ambitions are nothing
new, and it lacks the majority of the technical knowledge to actually
complete a bomb, but these concrete steps indicate a new seriousness in
pursuit of that goal. Here's why it matters.
- The Evidence for
Nuclear Ambitions The Washington Post's Joby Warrick reports, "There
have been numerous allegations in the past about secret nuclear
activity by Burma's military rulers, accounts based largely on ambiguous
satellite images and uncorroborated stories by defectors. But the new
analysis is based on documents and hundreds of photos smuggled out of
the country by Sai Thein Win, a Burmese major who says he visited key
installations and attended meetings at which the new technology was
demonstrated. ... Among the images provided by the major are technical
drawings of a device known as a bomb-reduction vessel, which is chiefly
used in the making of uranium metal for fuel rods and nuclear-weapons
components. The defector also released a document purporting to show a Burmese
government official ordering production of the device, as well as photos
of the finished vessel.
- North Korean Involvement? The Associated
Press' Denis Gray writes, "North Korea
is probably assisting the program, an expatriate media group said
Friday. ... Last month, U.N. experts monitoring sanctions imposed
against North Korea over its nuclear and missile tests said their
research indicated it was involved in banned nuclear and ballistic
missile activities in Iran, Syria and Burma."
- Why Sanctions
Won't Work Burma scholar Morten Pedersen recently
told Guernica magazine, "There’s no one outside the army that has
influence on policy decisions. There’s a close business community. But
while they’re close to the generals, they have no political influence."
That is, the sanctions don't hurt the ruling class, and the ruling class
doesn't care about the people hurt by sanctions. "The Burmese generals
have no affinity at all with the people who are sanctioning them.
Culturally, there’s no link whatsoever."
- Burma Trying to Make
'Indigenous' Missiles Arms Control Wonk blogger Geoffrey Forden explains
that, rather than buying up most of the key components, Burma is trying
to build missiles from scratch. "Burma is pursuing a least two
different paths towards acquiring a missile production capability. One
is a more or less indigenous path. The 'less indigenous' comes from the
fact that they have sent a number of Burmese military officers to Moscow
for training in engineering related to missile design and production."
This news "has opened up the possibility of proliferation networks more
as consulting engineering firms rather than one-stop-shopping centers."
U.S. Senator Calls For Engaging Burma Senator Jim Webb, who leads
the Senate Foreign Relations Asia subcommittee, has canceled a planned
trip to Burma, but still maintains his call for engagement with the
regime. Foreign Policy's Josh Rogin writes, "Webb also
called on Obama to appoint a special envoy to Burma Thursday. That's
significant because it was Webb's predecessor on the subcommittee, Sen.
Barbara Boxer, D-CA, who prevented the last nominee from assuming the
position. ... 'I strongly believe that a continuation of dialogue
between our two countries is important for the evolution of a more open
governmental system and for the future strategic balance in Southeast
Asia,' Webb said, saying that could only happen when concerns about
Burma's cooperation with North Korea are resolved."
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