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As If North Korea Didn’t Have you Worried Enough

by Joshua Kurlantzick
December 22, 2010

Models of a North Korean Scud-B missile and South Korean Hawk surface-to-air missiles are seen at the Korean War Memorial Museum in Seoul

Models of a North Korean Scud-B missile and South Korean Hawk surface-to-air missiles are seen at the Korean War Memorial Museum in Seoul. (Jo Yong hak/Courtesy Reuters)

I have a new article in the New Republic examining the links between North Korea and a potential nuclear and missile program in Burma. Rumors and reports that Burma wanted to develop missile and nuclear programs have been percolating for years, but recently the problem has been highlighted with more credible reports on the topic by the United Nations, the Democratic Voice of Burma and the Institute for Science and International Security.

What is interesting about the possibility of a Burmese nuclear program – admittedly, still relatively remote at this point – is how, as with the junta’s recent political maneuvers, it shows that the regime has been able to both keep foreign powers in the dark and effectively manipulate the outside world. In this way, the junta has put the lie to the idea that its leaders are dumb, unsophisticated, or irrational – they are brutal, but also far savvier and rational than they often appear.

Post a Comment 5 Comments

  • Posted by David Gravit

    Wow, maybe its time for China to act more responsibly? North Korea, Burma… who’s next for the failing economy nuclear club?

  • Posted by Zach Alsgaard

    Or, possibly “Who wants to join our list of nuclear buffer states who don’t have the same burden of potential economic, social and diplomatic repercussions we have?”

  • Posted by Lance Harris

    Hmm … Burma, North Korea, China, Venezuela, et al. Anybody see a pattern here? (“Birds of a feather flock together”?) Proverbs 23:13-14 seems appropriate, albeit, a little late on today’s global stage. (Where are the “John Waynes” and “George Pattons, Jr.” when we need them?)

  • Posted by joel wit

    I am not sure why in your New Republic article you do not talk about the extensive work done by Robert Kelley for DVB? As far as I know, that piece is the most detailed one available on the Burma-DPRK connection based on real facts (including lots of pictures) and not conjecture by people who don’t have a technical background.

  • Posted by Ian

    I think China is the “invisible” hand that feeds the nuclear programs in North Korea and Burma and any number of the rogue countries (I’d include Pakistan on the list as well). The central question of why China would want to do that is not so clear. Perhaps China doesn’t see the absolute necessity for the NPT as the cornerstone of world peace as the US or the Europse sees it. North Korea couldn’t possibly develop the central technical skills for the uranium enrichment program without benign neglect or outright assistance on the part of China. Now comes the Burmese junta wanting the nuclear bombs for themselves. If I was China, I’d be mighty worried to be facing multiple nuclear armed countries encircling its borders (failing economy or not). But these days, the reasons for the China’s actions have never been more opaque. Not only China has the most number of bordering countries but also the most number of countries with nuclear arm capabilities or nuclear intentions. Why would China tolerate that? Hopefully, China doesn’t think that with, so many people within and out of its borders, even nuclear wars can’t anihilate Chinese version of communism as it would the rest of the world. China should realize that it can’t possibly control all its border countries all the time. China is playing a very dangerous game of chess if it is under that sort of wishful thinking.

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