Contact: Roland Watson, email@example.com
COMMENT ON THE NEW BURMA PROLIFERATION INCIDENT
November 28, 2012
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There was a small news item in August, from Kyodo news agency, about a ship with North Korean cargo that had been stopped in Japan. I wondered at the time if the cargo was bound for Burma. Asahi Shimbun has now released a detailed article about the interdiction, and which discloses that the cargo was indeed headed for the country. My comments below are intended to help people read between the article's lines.
"North Korea tried to ship materials suitable for uranium enrichment or missile development to Myanmar via China this year..."
As Dictator Watch has pointed out, the "reform" in Burma does not mean that the nuclear weapon and ballistic missile program has been shut down. The regime's statements saying that it has are lies.
The program is directly under the real source of power in the country, the Burma Army and Senior General Than Shwe. As Aung San Suu Kyi pointed out during her trip to India, Thein Sein is separate from the military. (At least on paper - he no doubt retains his rank of Lieutenant General, and is the titular head of the National Defense and Security Council). It is unlikely that he, and of course his spokesperson on this subject Hmu Zaw, have any idea about the real status of the program.
There is, though, the question of the recent announcement that Burma would sign the "additional protocol" with the IAEA, which nuclear guru David Albright called a "remarkable decision." How can the program still be underway, which the blocked shipment seems to demonstrate, in the face of this decision? Won't IAEA inspections immediately reveal it?
I hope Mr. Albright understands a basic feature of Asian culture, and which certainly applies to Burma's dictatorship. When you ask someone in Asia a question, and which the person cannot or does not want to answer, they will generally respond by saying what they think you want to hear. This is done to preserve face, and also, if there is an ulterior motive, to deceive.
Thein Sein and the regime have been saying a lot of things, including that their reform is sincere, that they want to stop the civil war against the Kachin, that the press will be free, and that the regime will release all the political prisoners. The West, including America, Germany, and Norway, as well as Japan and international businesspeople, have lapped it up. However, I wouldn't expect the actual signing of the new protocol anytime soon (there is already talk that it must first be approved by the USDP/military dominated Parliament), and, even if and when it is, that inspections, certainly the surprise inspections that it permits, will be forthcoming.
"The shipment included about 50 metal pipes and 15 high-specification aluminum alloy bars, at least some of them offering the high strength needed in centrifuges for a nuclear weapons program."
"Japan seized the items aboard a cargo vessel docked at Tokyo Port on Aug. 22, a raid which took place at the request of the United States ..."
It is ludicrous to think that the ship would be stopped for such a meager cargo. The real manifest has to be much more extensive, and dangerous. What Asahi Shimbun stated was obviously carefully vetted by intelligence: American intelligence. Indeed, it is probable that the limited release of information was itself designed to deceive. If the full cargo contents were known, there would be outrage and the business-driven reform, including President Obama's public embrace of it, would be stopped dead in its tracks.
Dictator Watch and others have published extensive intelligence for Burma about both nuclear materials and ballistic missiles. There are also a number of things that we haven't revealed, because they were anecdotal and we didn't have independent confirmation. In the face of the new interdiction, we feel obliged to disclose this information, particularly in the area of uranium enrichment. We too have heard stories about centrifuge experiments, which is the most well-known enrichment technology (witness the programs in both North Korea and Iran). However, we were also told about an accident at Thabeikkyin (the site of the Nuclear Battalion): An explosion and fire involving a laser and in which a female Defense Services Academy scientist reportedly was killed. Laser isotope separation is another basic technique of uranium enrichment. We also heard that three Pakistani scientists had been seen at Thabeikkyin. (Pakistan is believed to have used this technique to develop its own nuclear weapons.) There are of course many other sites that are suspect. And, there is the question of the thousands of officers who trained in Russia, and the dozens who trained in North Korea: Where are they now and how are they applying their advanced technical know-how?
"Japanese officials from several government agencies agreed that the Chinese military—which ultimately controls its defense industry—must have approved North Korea's exporting the materials to Myanmar."
This new ship interdiction is the third that has been made public. We have also heard about other sea shipments from North Korea to Burma that got through, particularly before the widely-reported interception of the Kang Nam 1. Dictator Watch has been told that following the Kang Nam 1 affair, materials from North Korea for the program were to be sent first to China, for onward transport to Burma using trucks. Since the new incident involves a ship, it seems likely that it was carrying materials either too large for trucks, or too sensitive and dangerous for a long overland transit. This new incident also confirms what we have been told for years and from many different sources: China is helping orchestrate Burma's nuclear and missile program (perhaps to offset Russian influence). It fully backs Than Shwe's goal to acquire an atomic bomb, and is happy to offer hands-on help with materials and as a liaison with North Korea as required. (Let's not forget that senior Burmese officers arrived back from a China arms fair hours after President Obama left Burma.)
"The United States and South Korea learned that Myanmar signed contracts to purchase military supplies from North Korea when Shwe Mann visited the country in November 2008 as joint chief of staff."
"The U.S. and South Korean intelligence agencies have stationed personnel at airports and ports in Myanmar to monitor traffic, but North Koreans are apparently traveling by land through China, sources said."
"Japan, the United States and South Korea have refrained from disclosing details about military ties between North Korea and Myanmar.
If we went public with that, we would thrust Myanmar closer to China and North Korea," said one Japanese government source."
The United States has a major intelligence program directed at North Korea, and it seems clear that it extends to Burma. The statement that North Koreans are traveling through China confirms what I just said. Also, it is amazing that the intelligence gathering includes stationing "personnel at airports and ports in Myanmar to monitor traffic," although if you think about it, this is what a sophisticated spy effort would require.
The idea though that going public would drive Burma closer to China is absurd. The military regime is already so involved with the CCP that other than by acquiring a nuclear weapon outright, from either China or North Korea, their conspiracy can't get any deeper.
It is disturbing that the U.S. will not reveal what it knows. Under the 2008 Tom Lantos JADE Act, the Administration is required to disclose a wide range of information, including on weapons of mass destruction. Please see Section 10 of the law in the following link.
The State Department refused to follow the law: It would not publish the Report on Military and Intelligence Aid to Burma. It only relented after I filed a Freedom of Information Act request. Even then, however, the Administration only released sketchy one page reports, for 2009 and 2010. (2011 is not yet published, although it should have been by now.) By doing this, the U.S. again failed to uphold U.S. law, in this case the FOIA.
The Obama Administration is being dishonest, and this has a number of important implications.
First, the people of Burma should understand this. Obama's visit was just public relations. Clearly there is much, much more going on, and it is by no means certain that the United States, under this President, is your friend.
Contrary to Thein Sein's lies, it is obvious that the program is still in active development. There is way too much smoke for there not to be a fire.
Everything would be much less opaque if the State Department would just follow the JADE Act, but C Street is stonewalling. This is the most shocking and worrisome aspect of all. It implies that U.S. intelligence, which seems to have infiltrated Burma's regime, has learned something so damaging that it is afraid to make it public, and instead the Administration is doing behind the scenes diplomacy, including by offering lucrative bribes in the form of suspended sanctions, to try to defuse the threat.