Nuclear Pipe Dream?

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Nuclear Pipe Dream?

ตั้งหัวข้อ  sunny on Sat Jul 17, 2010 4:38 pm

Nuclear Pipe Dream?
By THE IRRAWADDY

Based on evidence accumulating over the the last several years, it appears that the Burmese generals have the intent, motivation and money to develop nuclear weapons. History also shows they have the mindset necessary to disregard their own people’s welfare, as well as the opinions of their regional neighbors and the international community.



Yet analysts say it is clear that the military regime is nowhere near having the means—in terms of technology and expertise—to accomplish their nuclear objectives. So how will the region and the rest of the international community respond? Especially given the fact that sanctions, isolation and engagement have all previously failed to influence the regime? Thus far, outside reactions have been as ambiguous as the junta’s clandestine program.

On June 4, the international spotlight was refocused on Burma’s nuclear ambitions when Al Jazeera broadcast a documentary produced by the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), which provided the strongest and most concrete evidence to date that the Burmese military junta is in the primitive stages of producing a nuclear weapon.

The DVB report, based on evidence supplied by Burmese army defector ex-Maj Sai Thein Win and written by Robert Kelley, a nuclear scientist and former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), claims that the ruling military junta in Burma is “mining uranium, converting it to uranium compounds for reactors and bombs, and is trying to build a reactor and/or an enrichment plant that could only be useful for a bomb.”

To date, Washington has been the only foreign power to directly comment on the DVB report, and even its statements have been less than forceful.

Scot Marciel, the deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian affairs, said at a Congressional hearing following release of the DVB report that the United States was still assessing allegations that Burma is attempting to develop nuclear weapons.

“I think there’s two issues. One is whether there is some kind of serious nuclear program in Burma, which certainly would be tremendously destabilizing to the entire region,” Marciel said.

“There’s also the Burmese acquisition of other military equipment—conventional—which also can affect regional stability,” he said. “We’re looking at both of those questions very closely.”

Responding to a question about the evidence presented in the DVB report, Geoff Morrell, the press secretary for US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, said the US is closely monitoring the junta’s cooperation with North Korea but did not comment directly on the nuclear allegations.

“We are concerned with [Burma’s] growing military ties with the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] and are following it closely to ensure that the multiple UNSCRs [UN Security Council Resolutions] are enforced,” Morrell told Agence France-Presse.

In an op-ed piece printed in the New York Times on June 18, Aung Lynn Htut, formerly a high-ranking Burmese military intelligence officer who defected in 2005 when he was serving as an attaché at the Burmese embassy in Washington, noted the Obama administration’s engagement strategy with Burma and warned there is a danger that Washington might unwittingly soften its stance toward the junta’s military leaders.

“It [The Obama administration] should be careful not to do so. And it should take the junta’s nuclear-weapons ambitions seriously. The regime in Burma has a history of deceiving American officials,” said Aung Lynn Htut.

However, despite such warnings, the DVB report and the new engagement policy, Burma has yet to gain a high profile in the White House. Francis Wade, writing on the DVB website, said, “Obama himself has barely mentioned Burma in public and instead defers responsibility to lower-ranking state department staff. While Burma’s gas reserves are enough to tantalize nearby China and Thailand, its oil reserves are meager and their refining abilities even worse.

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sunny

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Re: Nuclear Pipe Dream?

ตั้งหัวข้อ  sunny on Sat Jul 17, 2010 4:40 pm

So recent history would suggest that the US will stay away.”

In any event, the DVB’s allegations could not have been welcome by the regime, as they could possibly throw a wrench into the spokes of the Obama administration’s potentially regime-friendly policy of engagement, possibly preclude the possibility that sanctions will be lifted and hinder the junta’s efforts to gain a semblance of legitimacy through the upcoming election, not to mention direct an unwanted international spotlight on the regime’s activities.

Judging by the response of Burma’s neighbors, however, especially fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), regional concern over Burma’s nuclear ambitions is next to non-existent.

Seven months ago, when Obama attended the first Asean-US summit in Singapore, his regional counterparts (including Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein, who was able to attend because of Obama’s newly announced engagement policy) applauded Obama’s nuclear disarmament efforts.

In a joint statement, the Asean leaders said they “welcomed the efforts of the president of the United States in promoting international peace and security including the vision of a nuclear weapons free world.”

The statement continued: “We are convinced that the establishment of a Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (SEANWFZ) will contribute towards global nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation and peace and security in the region.”

The Asean-US leadership also “agreed to work towards preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and work together to build a world without nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.”

But thus far neither Asean nor any of its members has had any public comment about the allegations of Burma’s nuclear ambitions contained in the DVB report.

In an op-ed piece that ran in several Asian publications, Nehginpao Kipgen, a researcher on the rise of political conflicts in modern Burma (1947-2004), said that Burma’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is a violation of Asean’s collective commitment for establishing the SEANWFZ and a nuclear weapons free world.

“Asean should abjure its traditional policy of non-interference, especially when an action of its own member state can disturb the peaceful existence of the entire populace in the region,” he said.

According to Kavi Chongkittavorn, a senior editor and columnist at the Bangkok-based English-language daily newspaper, The Nation, Thailand and the other Asean members might raise the nuclear weapons program at the Asean foreign ministerial meeting on July 9-13 in Hanoi.

“Nobody expects Burma to tell the truth,” Kavi wrote in The Nation. “But Asean needs to put the issue on record as its reputation is at stake, especially at the time the grouping wants to increase its profile to promote peace and stability as well as economic well-being internationally. After all, Burma was among the ten signatories to the region’s first no-nuke treaty.”

With respect to Thailand, Kavi said: “After decades of complacency, the Thai security apparatus, especially the National Security Council (NSC), has finally paid more attention to its long-standing assumption that Burma does not and will not have the capacity to assemble a nuclear bomb.”


Democaratic Voice of Burma recently published a map
showing the alleged sites of nuclear facilities in Burma
according to defectors testimonies.

“The main argument was simplistic—Burma is poor and backward so it is highly unlikely for the country to embark on the project,” he said. “In addition, persons familiar with the NSC analysis of Burma would immediately recognize the narrative pattern of ‘appeasement’ and ‘don’t rock the boat’ syndrome in handling its western neighbor.”

The previous justifications for the Thai silence regarding Burma’s nuclear ambitions, Kavi said, were fragile security along its porous 2004 kilometer border and Thailand’s growing dependency on natural gas imported from Burma. From the Thai perspective, preservation of the status quo at any cost was desirable due to fears the country’s future energy security would be compromised if relations became unstable.

While the US registers its concern over the Burma-North Korea relationship, and Asean and its members sit quietly on the sidelines and apparently see, hear and speak no evil, China’s response—or lack thereof—to recent revelations about Burma’s budding nuclear weapons program is not surprising.

_________________
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มนุษย์อยู่ร่วมในสังคมเดียวกัน โดยความคิดเห็นที่แตกต่างกัน ย่อมสร้างผลกระทบต่อสังคมได้ฉันนั้น

sunny

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Re: Nuclear Pipe Dream?

ตั้งหัวข้อ  sunny on Sat Jul 17, 2010 4:40 pm

While China has said nothing about the growing relationship between the two countries on its southwestern and northeastern borders, China’s state-run news agency Xinhua ran the Burmese foreign minister’s June 11 denial of nuclear weapons allegations in full.

Xinhua also gave the junta an assist by adding: “The statement [by Burma’s foreign minister] made clear that no efforts have been made by the country to develop nuclear weapons, citing some experts’ conclusion that Myanmar [Burma] is not in a position to make such weapons as it is just a developing country which lacks sufficient infrastructure, technology and financial resources for the development…The statement reiterated that Myanmar has no ambition to become a nuclear power state but only wants peace.”

In addition, the Chinese news services ran statements by Chinese government proxies who questioned the reliability of the sources of the DVB investigation and suggested that the report is related to the interest of the US in reasserting its role in Southeast Asia.

Sun Xiaoying, a researcher on Southeast Asia with the Guangxi Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that she was skeptical about the unverified claim as the accusation is from former Burma military figures now living in exile.

He Shengda, a scholar on Southeast Asian affairs at the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences, said Burma does not seem to be in a position to engage in nuclear weapons development.

“Economic development and political stability are most urgent for the authorities of Myanmar, which has been under military rule since 1962 and is expected to hold elections this year, the first of their kind in 20 years,” he said.

Jin Liangxiang, a researcher with the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, told Time Weekly that the US has been using the reports on Burma’s nuclear ambition to recast its role in Southeast Asia, which remains a nuclear-free region.

“To reassert its presence in the region, the US will surely use Myanmar’s alleged nuclear ambition to intimidate its allies in the region,” he said.

Strategically, the US attempted to restrain China by creating a stir in Burma, a regional hub for transport via the Indian Ocean, Jin added.

Despite these pro-junta comments by Chinese government analysts, some observers of Sino-Burmese relations say that although Beijing is believed to have played a key role in bringing Naypyidaw and Pyongyang together, it may be concerned by evidence that the Burmese regime is trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction.

While China’s leaders seem confident they can manage their relationship with the Communist regime in Pyongyang, they are less sure where they stand with the Burmese junta, which is ambivalent at best about its dependence on Beijing for military, economic and diplomatic support, and has shown little consideration for China’s concerns about stability along its borders.

“The [Burmese] military government does not always keep China informed of all the important policies and personnel changes within the country. It does sometimes communicate these changes with India, Thailand and Singapore,” wrote Li Chenyang and Lye Liang Fook, Chinese experts on Burma, in an academic report.

In an article published on Huffingtonpost.com, Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, said, “Washington should use the prospect of a nuclear crisis in Southeast as well as Northeast Asia to enlist China, India, and Russia into taking a more active role. None are likely to worry much about the status of human rights or democracy in Burma. All should be unsettled by the consequences of a serious Burmese effort to develop nuclear weapons. Does Beijing want two paranoid, isolated, and unpredictable nuclear weapons states as neighbors?”

So how seriously should the Burmese nuclear weapons program, such as it is, be taken?

Some analysts and observers have stepped forward to argue that if the junta manages to stay in power, continues to generate a healthy income through the sale of it natural resources and gets lucky with a few of the right technological connections, it could eventually become a real threat that must be dealt with, à la North Korea.

“When a country like Burma—one of the world’s few ‘blackspots’ run by a sadistic army clique that has dined out on inflated anti-imperialist sentiment for decades—shows such aggressive intentions, the world should stand up and take notice,” said Wade.

“The argument that a nuclear power cannot condemn another state with similar ambitions is perfectly valid, but in Burma, as in North Korea, crucial money and resources for the project have been channeled away from a starving population and into the hands of a megalomaniacal regime,” he said.

Kipgen said a nuclear Burma will likely make Southeast Asia insecure, unstable and possibly pave the way for a nuclear arms race in the region. He said that the lack of a strong, coordinated international response has emboldened North Korea, which still enjoys the support of China, and that the international community’s failure to prevent nuclear proliferation has encouraged the Burmese military junta.

“If Myanmar becomes a nuclear nation, it will make the military leaders more arrogant and intransigent … The hope of establishing a federal Union of Burma will become slimmer, if not infeasible.

_________________
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มนุษย์อยู่ร่วมในสังคมเดียวกัน โดยความคิดเห็นที่แตกต่างกัน ย่อมสร้างผลกระทบต่อสังคมได้ฉันนั้น

sunny

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Re: Nuclear Pipe Dream?

ตั้งหัวข้อ  sunny on Sat Jul 17, 2010 4:41 pm

The voice of the international community on human rights abuses and exploitation of other democratic rights will also have lesser impact on the military regime,” he said.

Writing on the National Public Radio website, Christian Caryl, a contributing editor at Foreign Policy and Newsweek magazines and a senior fellow of the Center for International Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said that although the junta’s nuclear program is in its early stages, there is still reason to worry.

“For one thing, the generals have plenty of cash. Over the next few years they’ll be earning tens of billions of dollars from natural gas sales to the Chinese—and much of that money is apparently slated for the nascent WMD program. And even though the Russians halted work on a promised reactor project when they started to harbor doubt about Burmese intentions, it’s clear that there’s little the international community can do to prevent the junta from doing what it wants inside the country.

“Our best bet, it would seem, is that the brutal, paranoid, and astrology-driven generals who run Burma really are just as wasteful and incompetent as they appear to be from the outside. So why doesn’t that seem especially comforting?”

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Kelly Currie, a senior fellow with the Project 2049 Institute, a Washington-based think tank, said the regional governments with the most to lose from the horrific prospect of the junta obtaining nuclear weapons—namely India and the Asean—need to treat the threat seriously and take tough, swift multilateral and bilateral action.

The US and other governments that have genuine concerns about the junta’s nuclear ambitions should focus on what can be done in the near and medium term to produce a genuine transition to an accountable, responsible government in Burma, Currie said.

The way to stop Burma’s nuclear progress cold, she said, is by undermining the junta’s grip on power, noting that unlike North Korea, in Burma there is a democratic opposition that is ready to work with the international community to establish a responsible Burmese government that rejects nuclear brinksmanship.

“Back when the junta was merely brutalizing its own people, its Asian neighbors felt they could afford to look away and Western democracies could content themselves with symbolic moralizing,” Currie said. “Now that the larger consequences of tolerating the junta are becoming painfully clear, the region and the world have a choice: Allow the junta to follow its North Korean friends down the nuclear path, or find a way to deprive them of the power to keep making bad decisions on behalf of the Burmese people.”

_________________
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มนุษย์อยู่ร่วมในสังคมเดียวกัน โดยความคิดเห็นที่แตกต่างกัน ย่อมสร้างผลกระทบต่อสังคมได้ฉันนั้น

sunny

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