U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday said Myanmar's leadership had declared the country had no secret dealings with aspiring nuclear power North Korea, Agence France-Presse reported (see GSN, Nov. 30).
"I was frank that better relations with the United States will only be possible if the entire government respects the international consensus against the spread of nuclear weapons," Clinton said in the Burmese capital of Naypyidaw. She is the first U.S. secretary of state in five decades to visit the Southeast Asian nation.
"We look to Naypyidaw to honor U.N. Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874 and sever illicit ties with North Korea," Clinton said, referring to sanctions measures issued against North Korea following its 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests.
President Obama dispatched Clinton to Myanmar following steps by the country's new civilian government, which is supervised by a long-ruling military junta, to release some political prisoners and allow limited democratic reforms.
Washington for some time has feared that North Korea could be secretly supporting a secret nuclear program in Myanmar. There have been unverified reports of hundreds of North Korean specialists working at Burmese sites and claims by Burmese dissidents of initial nuclear arms research. Naypyidaw has repeatedly asserted it has no nuclear-weapon ambitions. It is a signatory of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty.
State Department staffers have minimized assertions regarding atomic collaboration between the two pariah states. The aides say Washington is chiefly focused on potential missile dealings between the two nations.
Burma's new president, Thein Sein, provided "strong assurances" that his government would adhere to Security Council resolutions on North Korea, Clinton said.
Additionally,Thein Sein said Myanmar was "strongly considering signing the IAEA Additional Protocol and that they are already engaged in dialogue with the IAEA," an unidentified senior U.S. diplomatic official said. Inking the protocol would permit the Vienna, Austria-based U.N. agency to conduct more rigorous atomic audits in the country (Agence France-Presse/Asia One , Dec. 1).
As a reward for Myanmar's initial political reform efforts, Clinton said the Obama administration would relax some limits on economic assistance and development activities in the isolated Asian country, the New York Times reported.
"For decades, the choices of this country's leaders kept it apart from the global economy and the community of nations. Today the United States is prepared to respond to reforms with measured steps to [reduce] its isolation and improve the lives of citizens," the U.S. foreign policy chief said (Steven Lee Myers, New York Times, Dec. 1).