North Korea Should Follow Myanmar's Example: U.S.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, left, hugs Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi at the democracy advocate’s residence in Yangon, Myanmar. A U.S. diplomat on Friday said North Korea would benefit from adopting economic and political reforms similar to those pursued by Myanmar (AP Photo/Saul Loeb).
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, left, hugs Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi at the democracy advocate’s residence in Yangon, Myanmar. A U.S. diplomat on Friday said North Korea would benefit from adopting economic and political reforms similar to those pursued by Myanmar (AP Photo/Saul Loeb).

North Korea would do well to be guided by the example of Myanmar and transform its political and financial policies, the Associated Press quoted a U.S. diplomat as saying on Friday (see GSN, June 7).

Myanmar in the last year has made a number of democratic reforms that have led the United States and other nations to ease sanctions and improve diplomatic relations with the former pariah state.

"I would hope the North Koreans see what's happened in Burma and recognize that as something that's positive. I see Burma as a great example of where we'd like to see North Korea going," U.S. envoy for North Korean human rights Robert King said in Tokyo.

As part of its reformist message to the world, the Burmese leadership has announced it will honor U.N. Security Council resolutions that prohibit all weapons deals with Pyongyang. The two countries have been under suspicion for illegal arms transfers and possible nuclear collaboration.

Were the North to send "positive" signals that it would permit the International Atomic Energy Agency to return to the country, "then I think there will be positive movement in other directions, as there had been in Burma," King said.

Pyongyang ejected IAEA inspectors again in 2009 after being criticized by the Security Council for a rocket launch that was widely viewed as a test of ballistic missile technology.

There was hope in early March that the U.N. nuclear agency would finally be permitted to resume monitoring the North's nuclear program through a deal under which Pyongyang would receive U.S. food assistance in exchange for observing a moratorium on long-range missile and nuclear tests and halting uranium enrichment.

Those hopes were dashed in April when North Korea ignored international wishes and attempted to fire a long-range rocket into space. The Obama administration responded to the evident violation of Security Council rules that forbid Pyongyang from using ballistic missile technology and canceled the planned food aid. The Stalinist state responded by announcing it was abandoning the bilateral deal altogether.

The aspiring nuclear power's rocket launch, which ended with the system breaking apart within minutes of takeoff, means that nutritional assistance is "out of the range of possibilities right now," according to King. "Would we consider it in the future? Possibly. Are we considering it now? No" (Malcolm Foster, Associated Press/Google News, June 8).

Elsewhere, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said China and the United States both have roles in addressing the North's illegal efforts to sell its nuclear weapons technology abroad, the Korea Herald reported.

"We continue to face the instability of North Korea and the potential for some kind of conflict with that country," the Pentagon on Thursday quoted Panetta as telling an audience in New Delhi.

"We also face the threat of, frankly, nuclear proliferation from an unstable North Korea -- that's something that is as much a threat to China as it is to others in this region -- and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction," the Pentagon chief said.

China is North Korea's lead ally and economic benefactor. It is often seen to have the greatest ability to pressure Pyongyang to change its policies, though leaders in Beijing often play down that influence (Korea Herald, June 8).

Meanwhile, North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun is anticipated to take part in a July meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in the Cambodian capital, the Phnom Penh Post reported on Friday.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong made the announcement following a rare trip to the isolated country, which he said produced a "much better, increased bilateral relationship."

As host of the ASEAN forum, the Cambodian government is anticipated to extend invitations to all of the participants of the six-nation talks aimed at North Korean denuclearization -- China, Japan, the two Koreas, Russia, and the United States.

Retired University of New South Wales professor Carlyle Thayer was not optimistic Pyongyang's attendance at the ASEAN forum would lead to a new era of positive engagement with the region. "I think North Korea wants to use ASEAN as a buffer against the six-party talks," which have not been held since December 2008.

Thayer said he believed Pyongyang was reverting to the "good boy" approach following the international condemnation it experienced for the rocket launch and the loss of the U.S. food aid. 

He said Beijing would play the crucial role in achieving any sort of substantive international engagement with the North over its nuclear weapons program (Vong Sokheng, Phnom Penh Post, June 8).

June 8, 2012
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North Korea would do well to be guided by the example of Myanmar and transform its political and financial policies, the Associated Press quoted a U.S. diplomat as saying on Friday.

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