Burma in Quandary Over Military Ties with N.Korea

      December 02, 2011 12:39

      U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (left) and pro-democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi talk prior to dinner at the U.S. Chief of Mission Residence in Rangoon, Myanmar on Thursday. /AFP-Yonhap

      Burma is under pressure to jettison its cozy relationship with North Korea after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demanded assurances during a historic visit to the Southeast Asian country.

      Clinton met her Burmese counterpart U Maung Lwin and visited Burmese President Thein Sein in the new administrative capital of Naypyidaw on Thursday. It was the first visit to the country by a U.S. secretary of state since 1962.

      She urged the Burmese junta to end "illicit" ties with North Korea if relations with America are to improve.

      In a press briefing on Wednesday, a senior State Department official said Burma’s ties with North Korea would be high on the agenda during Clinton's visit.

      The U.S. is concerned chiefly about missiles and missile parts when it comes to the North Korea-Burma relations and Clinton would seek a detailed discussion about it, the official added.

      Burma severed diplomatic ties with North Korea after North Korean terrorists attempted to assassinate visiting South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan in Rangoon in 1983, but the current junta established amiable relations with its fellow isolated dictatorship, including allegedly exchanging missile technologies and conventional arms, and formally restored ties in 2007.

      French daily Le Monde reported in October that Burma and North Korea have long exchanged weapons and food.

      There are also claims that North Korea attempted to transfer nuclear technology to Burma after its nuclear test in October 2006. If Burma yields to U.S. pressure, North Korea stands to lose an important ally in Southeast Asia.

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