Tue, Jul 18, 2017 - Page 5 News List

Myanmar insists no N Korea links

MATERIAL ASSISTANCE:Experts in 2014 identified a site in Myanmar where they suspect North Korea is helping the nation produce surface-to-air missiles

Reuters, YANGON, Myanmar

Myanmar has no military ties with North Korea, a Burmese official said yesterday, as a US diplomat responsible for North Korea arrived for talks in which he is likely to seek assurances on efforts to isolate it.

US Special Representative on North Korea policy Joseph Yun was set to meet Burmese State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and the military’s commander-in-chief in the capital, Naypyidaw, yesterday, the US embassy in Yangon said.

Yun over the weekend attended a conference in Singapore focusing on tension on the Korean Peninsula over North Korea’s unrelenting nuclear and missile programs.

Yun’s trip to Asia was announced after North Korea’s test on July 4 of on intercontinental ballistic missile that it says can carry a large nuclear warhead and some experts believe has the range to reach Alaska.

Myanmar is his only other stop, pointing to concern in Washington that the Burmese army, which used to have ties with North Korea, continues to give succor to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s regime.

The US did not inform Myanmar what Yun would discuss, Burmese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Kyaw Zeya said.

“They are not very specific from the very beginning, but we understand he is the special envoy on North Korea,” Kyaw Zeya said.

Myanmar was complying with UN resolutions on North Korea, he added.

“It’s normal relations between the two countries,” Kyaw Zeya said. “As I understand, there’s no such relations between military to military. Definitely not.”

The US in May asked Southeast Asian countries to do more to isolate North Korea and efforts have increased after its July 4 ballistic missile test.

Myanmar’s former ruling junta, which was also widely shunned by the outside world over its suppression of human rights, was known to have ties to North Korea, which included sending missile experts and material for arms production to Myanmar.

Myanmar insists that arms deals and other military relations with North Korea stopped before its transition to a nominally civilian government in 2011.

Aung San Suu Kyi took power last year amid a transition from full military rule, but the military could still have “a few residual pockets” with links to North Korea, the then-top US diplomat for East Asia Daniel Russel told a congressional hearing in September last year.

In March, the US Department of the Treasury leveled new sanctions against the Burmese Directorate of Defence Industries under the Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act Sanctions.

It was previously sanctioned in 2012 and accused of materially assisting North Korea’s regime, but had fallen off the sanctions list in October last year after then-US president Barack Obama’s administration dropped most measures against Myanmar in recognition of a successful political transition.

However, despite Aung San Suu Kyi leading the civilian administration, the Burmese military remains free from civilian oversight.

A 2008 constitution drafted by then-ruling generals keeps the army central to politics.

In May 2014, experts analyzing satellite imagery of military facilities in central Myanmar identified a site where North Korea was helping Myanmar with production of surface-to-air missiles.

The paper by Catherine Dill and Jeffrey Lewis of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California, said the site near the town of Minbu was staffed by up to 300 North Koreans.

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