Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Burma may agree to nuclear protocol

Wednesday, 21 November 2012 15:33 Mizzima News

The Burmese government is ready to sign an international agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that would require it to declare all nuclear facilities and materials, according to an Associated Press (AP) report on Wednesday.

“Little noticed in the warm glow of President Barack Obama's landmark visit to Myanmar was a significant concession that could shed light on whether that nation's powerful military pursued a clandestine nuclear weapons program, possibly with North Korea's help,” wrote AP’s Matthew Pennington.

Although it would be up to Naypyitaw to decide what to declare, it could provide some answers concerning its acquisition of dual-use machinery and military cooperation with Pyongyang that the U.S. and other nations regard as suspect, the report said.

President Thein Sein's agreement to allow more scrutiny by U.N. nuclear inspectors suggests a willingness to go beyond democratic reforms that have improved relations with Washington and culminated in Obama's visit this week, the first by a U.S. president to the country.

In 2008, photographs were leaked showing the Burmese military's joint chief of staff (now Lower House Speaker) Shwe Mann on a secret visit to North Korea. He is pictured alongside the manager of North Korea's chief operational officer behind Pyongyang’s two underground nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

Burma’s current agreement with the IAEA requires little in terms of disclosure, and the government was unresponsive when the Vienna-based U.N. nuclear watchdog agency in late 2010 sought an inspection.

“But how quickly Myanmar moves to sign the protocol — it says it first needs parliament's approval — and then ratify it, remains to be seen, as does whether it discloses any useful information,” said Pennington.

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