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Myanmar President Claims Nuclear Work Ended Years Ago

Myanmar has ended its ambitions to establish a Russian-backed nuclear program, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak was informed during a visit to the formerly isolated Southeast Asian country, the Korea Herald reported on Tuesday (see GSN, April 26).

President Thein Sein told Lee that Russia was willing to establish two 10-megawatt reactors in Myanmar to establish the country's atomic energy production program. However, the then-ruling Burmese junta elected to not pursue the effort, South Korean presidential official Kim Tae-hyo quoted Thein Sein as saying.

A now-abandoned 2007 agreement called for Russian construction of a reactor that would have run on low-enriched uranium and been open to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (see GSN, May 15, 2007).

Lee also talked with Thein Sein about Myanmar's dealings with North Korea. Pyongyang is suspected of having illegally sold weapons to the Southeast Asian state; there have also been suspicions that Pyongyang assisted Naypyidaw in pursuing a secret nuclear program with possible weapons aims (see GSN, Nov. 28, 2011).

Thein Sein insisted his government has had no nuclear dealings with North Korea (Song Sang-ho, Korea Herald/Jakarta Post, May 15). He said the country would adhere to U.N. Security Council sanctions that prohibit all weapons trade with the Stalinist nation, the Associated Press quoted Kim as saying.

Lee said he applauded Thein Sein's accomplishments in opening up the Burmese government and said he formally asked the leader to ensure Myanmar abstains "from any activities" with Pyongyang that are prohibited by the Security Council.

Lee's trip to Myanmar marked the first time a South Korean president has traveled to the country since 1983, when a bomb strike killed 17 visiting officials from Seoul and four others (Associated Press/Washington Post, May 15).

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