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Myanmar building nuke reactor: Report
NEW DELHI, AUG 2 (AGENCIES):
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Published on 2 Aug. 2009 11:57 PM IST
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After Iran and North Korea, the next international pariah to be accused of having nuclear ambitions is Myanmar. A report in the `Sydney Morning Herald’ on Saturday quotes two Myanmarese defectors as saying that the Myanmar junta was secretly building a nuclear reactor and plutonium extraction facility with North Korea’s help, with the aim of acquiring its first nuclear bomb in five years. According to the report, “The secret complex, much of it in caves tunnelled into a mountain at Naung Laing in northern Burma, runs parallel to a civilian reactor being built at another site by Russia that both the Russians and Burmese say will be put under international safeguards.” One of the defectors was described as an “officer with a secret nuclear battalion in the Burmese army who was sent to Moscow for two years’ training.” The other, it said, “was a former executive of the leading regime business partner, Htoo Trading, who handled nuclear contracts with Russia and North Korea,” according to Times News Network. If true, the full weight of international pressure will be brought against Myanmar, said officials familiar with developments. But equally, the information that has been peddled by the defectors is also “preliminary” and could be used by the west to turn the screws on Myanmar -- on democracy and human rights issues -- in the run-up to the elections in the country in 2010. In 2002, Myanmar had notified IAEA of its intention to pursue a civilian nuclear programme. Later, Russia announced that it would build a nuclear reactor in Myanmar. There have also been reports that two Pakistani scientists, from the AQ Khan stable, had been dispatched to Myanmar where they had settled down, to help Myanmar’s project. Recently, the David Albright-led ISIS rang alarm bells about Myanmar attempting a nuclear project with North Korean help. During an ASEAN meeting in Thailand last week, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton highlighted concerns of the North Korean link. “We know there are also growing concerns about military cooperation between North Korea and Burma which we take very seriously,” Clinton said. None of the information supplied is indepth, said sources, but it can be used to raise the temperature and awareness of Myanmar’s alleged intentions. The Australian media report said, “China and other Asian nations recently helped persuade Rangoon to turn back a North Korean freighter, the Nam Kam 1, that was being shadowed by US warships on its way to Burma with an unknown cargo. A month ago, Japanese police arrested a North Korean and two Japanese for allegedly trying to export illegally to Burma a magnetic measuring device that could be used to develop missiles.” According to the report, “A South Korean intelligence expert, quoted anonymously, claimed satellite imagery showed the ship was part of clandestine nuclear transfer and also carried long-range missiles. Shadowed by the US Navy, the vessel eventually turned around and returned home.” The Russian assistance to Myanmar’s nuclear programme would be under IAEA safeguards, but not, if Myanmar is pursuing it with North Korea. Myanmar has proven reserves of uranium, and the technology acquired from North Korea might be used to extract plutonium. According to reports, the Russian reactor hasn’t taken off because Myanmar just has no money. But reportedly over the past 6 years, many Myanmar scientists, technicians and military personnel have received nuclear training in Russia.

 
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