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**Posted by Phineas
Now the military junta that rules Burma wants the Bomb:
But there is near-smoking gun evidence to substantiate reports of a Burmese nuke project. A major in the army, Sai Thein Win, has defected to the Democratic Voice of Burma, delivering into its hands hundreds of secret documents and photos. The materials reveal the construction of a huge network of underground facilities dating back to 1996 and costing at least $3.5 billion since 2001. This evidence is enough to convince Robert Kelley, a former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, that Burma’s junta is working on uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing capabilities with North Korean assistance.
The Strategic and Defence Studies Centre of Australia has published a study reaching the same conclusion. The authors interviewed two defectors who independently confirmed the building of a secret nuclear site, nearby the public site constructed with Russian aid. One defector testified to the presence of about 60 North Koreans at a secret site, which the authors describe as similar in design to the Syrian nuclear reactor destroyed by Israel in 2007.
The materials obtained by the Democratic Voice of Burma also show that a series of meetings took place in North Korea from the 22nd to the 29th of November in 2008 — meetings that included the Burmese military chief. One cable released by Wikileaks notes that a Burmese official mentioned the chief’s 2008 visit to North Korea in a slip of the tongue.
The organization has put together all the intelligence it has on Burma’s secret nuclear weapons program in the form of a documentary available to the public. For now, the junta is able only to mine uranium and produce yellowcake. One defector says that the regime hopes to be nuclear-capable by 2020. But the authors of the Australian study say Burma could go nuclear by 2014 in the absence of major problems. Rudimentary though it may be, the West should not dismiss Burma’s role in the nuclear Axis of Evil. The junta is in a position to fill one of the gaps in Iran’s nuclear effort. According to one defector, in February 2004 he met with an Iranian intelligence officer and nuclear scientist and received a sample of yellowcake. If this testimony is true, then Iran has already turned to Burma to help relieve its critical shortage of raw uranium.
Moreover, the UN has already confirmed that North Korea is shipping nuclear materials to Burma and using “links with overseas criminal networks to carry out these activities.” Next, corrupt Burmese officials might sell nuclear materials to criminals or terrorists. A September 2008 cable describes a Burmese civilian’s threat to U.S. diplomats to sell uranium-238 to Thailand, China, or other countries if the Americans themselves declined to buy. Claiming he already had 50 kg of Burmese uranium in a barrel, the civilian boasted that he could sell up to 2,000 kg. Another cable from January 2007 describes a suspected shipment of 112 metric tons of uranium ore to China by the Burmese government.
So, not only is Rangoon playing patty-(yellow)cake with North Korea and Iran, but private parties are getting involved. And, similar to the danger of a nuclear arms race in the Persian Gulf if (when) Iran gets its Big Firecracker, a Burmese nuclear capability would give incentive to Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia to get their own… “just in case.”
Not to mention making nuclear-armed India feel surrounded.
And, speaking of rational state-actors, have I mentioned that the rulers of Burma use astrology to make key national decisions?
(Crossposted at Public Secrets)