Myanmar government denies allegations it is developing nuclear weapons

Friday, June 11, 2010

Myanmar denies having nuclear weapons program

YANGON, Myanmar — Myanmar’s military junta denied Friday it is developing a nuclear weapons program, decrying such allegations as groundless and politically motivated.

State radio and television news reported the Foreign Ministry’s denial, which claimed that anti-government groups in collusion with the media had launched the allegations with the goal of “hindering Myanmar’s democratic process and to tarnish the political image of the government.”

The Norway-based Democratic Voice of Burma, a Myanmar exile news service, last week charged that the junta, aided by North Korea, is actively pursuing a nuclear weapons program with the aim of developing a bomb and long range missiles.

It said its conclusions were based on a five-year study and revelations by a recent Myanmar army defector.

The report was issued as a U.S. senator postponed a trip to Myanmar, saying it was a bad time for such a visit because of new allegations that its military regime was collaborating with North Korea to develop a nuclear program.

Sen. Jim Webb, a Democrat from Virginia, has been a leading proponent of greater engagement with Myanmar. The United States has generally shunned the military regime, imposing political and economic sanctions because of its poor human rights record and failure to hand over power to a democratically elected government.

The Foreign Ministry statement said the weapons allegation were based merely on “information provided by army deserters, defectors and dissidents which are inaccurate, unfair and unreliable” and came at a time when the United States was trying to engage Myanmar.

Alleging that Myanmar’s government is pursuing nuclear capabilities is not “conducive to regional and international stability,” the statement said. “Myanmar, which is a developing nation, lacks adequate infrastructure, technology and finance to develop nuclear weapons.”

A separate Foreign Ministry press release said the Myanmar defector, Sai Thein Win, who had smuggled out files and photographs, was a captain in the army and had a Science in power engineering from State Technical University in Moscow in 2004.

It said he was an army deserter who was absent from his job since February 2010, but did not specify where Sai had worked.

The statement said also noted that Webb, chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, had postponed his trip to Myanmar last week because of the nuclear allegations. Webb also had cited accusations that Myanmar had purchased arms from North Korea in violation of a U.N. embargo.

The statement also said Myanmar signed an agreement with Russia to develop a 10-megawatt reactor for peaceful purposes, but the project never began due to lack of resources and to avoid misunderstandings.

It said the allegation that Myanmar violated the U.N. Security Council embargo by allowing a North Korean ship to dock at a Myanmar port in April was baseless, because the ship was on a routine trip to unload cement and to take on 10,000 tons of Myanmar rice.

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