Myanmar Tries To Build Nuclear Weapons with North Korea's Help

Myanmar (formerly Burma) is trying to create its own nuclear weapons with the help of North Korea. Such suspicions were voiced by American experts.

The story began back in early June. Then the information was released that a Burmese rocket engineer Sai Thein Win had defected to the West. He claimed to have had access to two secret missile objects, including the location of the so-called “nuclear Battalion” that allegedly served nuclear facilities built with the active assistance of North Korea.

On July 20, analytical publication Jane's Intelligence Review has posted pictures depicting the secret military facilities that are supposedly close to the capital city Naypyidaw. Following this, the British publication The Daily Telegraph wrote that the evidence of the presence of Myanmar nuclear program has been received as a result of electronic intelligence and satellite imagery.

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This gave grounds for the U.S. State Department to demand from Myanmar military regime to disclose information regarding its existing nuclear technology. According to a former inspector of nuclear weapons from the U.S. to the IAEA, Robert Kelly, the defector provided “compelling evidence” of the existence of Myanmar nuclear programs. According to the expert Kelly, the nuclear objects are being built with implausible goals in mind.

"They are either trying to make reactor fuel, which they could buy for nothing from another country or they are trying to make a weapon clandestinely. There isn't much point doing that unless it's for a bomb," said Mr. Kelly.

It is possible that the West uses the available information to convince the IAEA to initiate an investigation. American intelligence genuinely fears that North Korea will share missile and nuclear technology with Myanmar. State Department is not trying to hide the fact that the United States is carefully watching the development of relations between Myanmar and North Korea. In recent years, these countries have strengthened their collaboration on a number of issues. For example, there is evidence that the North Korean builders have been erecting secret underground facilities in Myanmar for a few years.

Washington refers to the fact that Myanmar had earlier signed a nonproliferation treaty and has international obligations that must be fulfilled. However, speaking about its fears, the West forgets that this country was engaged in nuclear development long before the military came to power. In the 1950's Burmese nuclear physicists went to London and Washington for the first time to study. At the time its government was loyal to the West, and the U.S. and Britain were not as worried as they are now, when the military are in power.

The Government of Myanmar refutes the statement of Western experts, calling them “accusations based only on fabrications made by deserters, fugitives and exiles.” Who is right? Vladimir Khrustaliov, an expert on nuclear technology with the Maritime State University named after Admiral Nevelskoy in Vladivostok in his interview with described the “nuclear accusations” against Myanmar as ungrounded.

“This is not the first mention of the development of nuclear weapons by this country. However, until now there has been no clear evidence that such program of a military nature exists. The testimony of defectors is a very dubious source, and photos, including those from outer space, are also not an accurate evidence of Myanmar military nuclear program, given the fact that secret objects can be well camouflaged and even imitated.

The technological level of the country, as well as the level of training, is terribly low. Of course, we cannot rule out the fact that Myanmar could seek foreign aid in building its nuclear bombs. Currently, the cost of implementing such a project is only $300 million. But again, even in this case the level of technical education in the country is so low that if the nuclear program existed, it could only function under the supervision of foreign experts, i.e., “turnkey.”

If we compare the level of development of Myanmar and North Korea, the latter is several levels higher in all respects. First, many North Korean nuclear scientists obtained valuable education in the Soviet Union and beyond. And they were very intelligent students, and very independent. By the time of the creation of its nuclear weapons they have mastered their raw material base, built facilities for the production of nuclear fuel, reactor, a plant for plutonium separation, and so on. There are very few of such educated professionals from Myanmar.

The countries that have created or are creating their own nuclear program, act in a different way. For example, Iran that regularly makes loud statements. Myanmar behaves quite differently and does not engage in the nuclear PR.

The regime of the Burmese generals does not contribute to the success of this complex project. It is more like a traditional dictatorship of former agricultural colonies of the West, incapable of such technological breakthroughs, rather than industrial dictatorship like North Korea.

I think there is a big scale geopolitical game around this country. The West and India do not like the authoritarian undemocratic regime of Myanmar that is also friends with China. Myanmar and Thailand also have their disagreements. So now there is a banal information war against Myanmar.

In addition, the emergence of the information stating that this country is engaged in developing nuclear weapons, may be due to the fact that local generals want to “raise their status” by conducting or simulating certain works in the field of military atom. Nothing can be ruled out. We must closely monitor the situation. But now it is too early to consider Myanmar as the country on the “threshold” of creating its own nuclear weapons.”

However, it may be that Myanmar is not the most important defendant in this scandal. Perhaps, the West decided to “work out” another approach to North Korea accusing it of exporting missile and nuclear technology.

There is another interesting fact that may be played out in the future. Sai Thein Win is by far not the first, and probably not the last defector who claimed the development of nuclear weapons in Myanmar. Since the early 2000's there have been a few of such defectors. However, Sai Thein Win said he had allegedly obtained special education in the field of missile technology in Russia. Some particularly zealous “analysts” are already talking about possible indirect involvement of Russians with the semi-mythical nuclear program.

Sergei Balmasov

Read the original in Russian

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov