Myanmar’s president has assured his South Korean counterpart that his country will no longer buy weapons from North Korea, while conceding it had done so to some extent over the past 20 years.
In his meeting with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, Burmese President Thein Sein said his country never had nuclear cooperation with North Korea, but did have deals with Pyongyang for conventional weapons, Lee’s presidential Blue House said in an announcement yesterday.
Thein Sein told Lee that Myanmar would no longer buy weapons from North Korea, honoring a UN ban, South Korean presidential official Kim Tae-hyo told reporters traveling with Lee, according to Blue House officials in Seoul.
Lee is on an official visit to Myanmar, the first by a South Korean president since North Korean commandos staged a bloody 1983 attack against visiting South Korean dignitaries.
Myanmar cut off diplomatic relations with North Korea after the 1983 attack, but restored them in 2007 as it sought allies in the face of sanctions for its human rights violations and failure to install a democratic government. Myanmar also began buying weapons from North Korea and was suspected of obtaining nuclear weapons technology from Pyongyang.
Myanmar is taking steps to emerge from international isolation brought on by decades of military rule that ended last year. Those changes were highlighted yesterday when Lee met opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who suffered for years under house arrest, but is now a member of parliament.
Aung San Suu Kyi said after the 45-minute meeting that South Korea and Myanmar have much in common in having had to “take the hard road to democratic leadership.”
Lee, speaking through an interpreter, said he had praised Thein Sein’s efforts at democratizing when they met on Monday. He said he told Thein Sein he hoped his government “will refrain from any activities” with North Korea that could be considered in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. He described this as a formal request.
A UN resolution bars countries from obtaining all but small arms and light weapons from the North.
Lee yesterday made a brief visit to the site of the 1983 bombing, Martyr’s Mausoleum, a monument to Aung San Suu Kyi’s father, independence hero General Aung San. The attack left 21 dead, 17 of them South Koreans, but failed to kill its target, then-president Chun Doo-hwan, who arrived late and was not harmed.
A statement from Lee’s office said that during their summit talks, Lee also agreed to expand South Korea’s financial assistance and loans to Myanmar.
It said South Korea agreed to help Myanmar develop human resources, build a think tank and invite Myanmar students to South Korea in an effort to share its successful experience of economic development.