Thursday, June 16, 2011

Myanmar nukes? Defector's tale stokes suspicions

North Korea and weapons of mass destructionImage via Wikipedia
WASHINGTON (AP) — Among the hundreds of thousands who have fled Myanmar and its tyrannical rulers over the years is a military insider who claims he carried a big secret with him: evidence of a hidden nuclear weapons program.
Defector Sai Thein Win's account of his three years working in two clandestine factories, even with the trove of photos he brought with him, is no smoking gun. It has deepened suspicions, however, that Myanmar's xenophobic military leaders hanker for an atomic deterrent.
His allegations touch on a matter that is bound to resurface as Myanmar, also known as Burma, tries to curry international favor and end sanctions. While human rights and democracy have dominated Western attention to Myanmar, there also have been misgivings about its growing ties with North Korea, a suspected nuclear proliferator that may have exported missile technology to Myanmar.
In late May, a U.S. Navy destroyer intercepted a North Korean ship, suspected to have been carrying a cargo that violated U.N. nonproliferation sanctions, U.S. officials say. A Washington-based foreign diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said the cargo was suspected to have been weapons or missiles headed for Myanmar. The ship turned back to North Korea.
Myanmar has tried to ease international suspicions that it has illicit nuclear programs. Two weeks ago, after a visit by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., it announced that it was abiding by the U.N. sanctions. The government also said it had halted arrangements for nuclear research with Russia for its educational and health sectors. It said the "international community may misunderstand Myanmar over the issue."
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