North Korea’s foreign minister arrived in Myanmar yesterday for talks with the junta, an official said, amid Western concerns about possible nuclear cooperation between the two authoritarian states.
Pak Ui-chun landed in Yangon, where he was expected to visit the Shwedagon Pagoda before traveling to the capital, Naypyidaw, today to meet his counterpart, Nyan Win, said a Myanmar official, who asked not to be named.
Full details of Pak’s schedule were not immediately available, but he was expected to stay in the military-run state until Sunday.
Myanmar severed ties with Pyongyang in 1983 following a failed assassination bid by North Korean agents on South Korea’s then-president Chun Doo-hwan during a visit to the Southeast Asian nation. The attempt left 21 people dead.
But the two countries — branded “outposts of tyranny” by the US — have been rebuilding relations in recent years, resuming diplomatic ties in 2007.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week expressed worries about military ties between the two nations.
“We know that a ship from North Korea recently delivered military equipment to Burma [Myanmar’s former name] and we continue to be concerned by the reports that Burma may be seeking assistance from North Korea with regard to a nuclear program,” she said during a visit to Hanoi.
Last month, the ruling junta denied allegations — in a documentary produced by the Norwegian-based news group Democratic Voice of Burma — that Myanmar had begun an atomic weapons program with Pyongyang’s help.
The documentary cited a senior army defector and years of “top secret material.” It showed thousands of photos and testimony from defectors that it said revealed the junta’s nuclear ambitions and a secret network of underground tunnels, allegedly built with North Korean assistance.
Myanmar is preparing for rare elections sometime later this year that critics have dismissed as a sham due to laws that have barred opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from participating.