A senior U.S. diplomat on Wednesday said even as the United States' increases its engagement with Myanmar, it will continue to voice concerns regarding relations between the Southeast Asian country and North Korea (see GSN, June 4).
"We have been quite consistent and direct in public and private about our continuing concerns about the lack of transparency and Burma's military relationship with North Korea," said Derek Mitchell, the U.S. special envoy to Myanmar and now the Obama nominee for the re-established ambassador position to the former pariah state.
In the last year, Myanmar has instituted a number of democratic and economic reforms that have led Washington and other governments to increasingly move toward ending the decades-long isolation of the country. However, there are lingering concerns about Naypyidaw's relationship with Pyongyang, particularly in the realm of suspected illegal weapons cooperation.
There have also been reports of possible North Korean assistance for a secret atomic program in Myanmar, though officials there have denied such activities and the State Department has played down any concerns (see GSN, Dec. 1, 2011).
During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing, Mitchell said the State Department in its dealings with Myanmar's government would continue to emphasize the importance of honoring international nonproliferation regimes and U.N. Security Council resolutions that ban all weapons dealings with Pyongyang.
"If confirmed as ambassador, I will continue to make this issue of highest priority in my conversations with the government and be clear that our bilateral relationship can never be fully normalized until we are fully satisfied any illicit ties to North Korea have ended once and for all," Mitchell said (Rachel Oswald, Global Security Newswire, June 28).
A senior U.S. diplomat on Wednesday said even as the United States' increases its engagement with Myanmar, it will continue to voice concerns regarding relations between the Southeast Asian country and North Korea.