Secret documents and hundreds of photographs smuggled out of the country by a
defector indicated that it was intent on developing nuclear weapons and
long-range missiles. Janes Intelligence Review published a separate batch
of photographs showing similar activities in buildings and behind security
fences near the capital, Naypyidaw.
Fears that Burma
had joined a clandestine nuclear network linking North Korea, Iran,
Pakistan and Syria have been growing for some time, but there has not been
hard evidence until now.
Sai Thein Win, the defector, is an army major who trained as a defence
engineer and missile expert.
He said he had access to two secret nuclear facilities, including a nuclear
battalion north of Mandalay, charged with building up a nuclear weapons
Robert Kelley, an American former senior weapons inspector with the
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said the evidence was the most
The photographs, which were passed to the Democratic Voice of Burma, part of
the Burmese opposition, showed components built with German machine tools
imported through Singapore, which Mr Kelley believed indicated nefarious
They included a fluidised bed reactor which is used to turn a powdered form of
uranium into a gas which can then be enriched to weapons grade. They are
either trying to make reactor fuel which they could buy for nothing from
another country, or they are trying to make a weapon clandestinely, said Mr
There is just not much point doing that unless it is for a bomb.
Intelligence agencies are seeking to provide the IAEA with proof of a
clandestine programme in the hope of a formal inquiry. Regular shipments of
rocket platforms and missile technology between North Korea and Burma, as
well as other clandestine links, are under scrutiny.
There are strong suspicions over the contents of shipments, including a
delivery of rockets within the last month, said one international nuclear
Washington has told Burmas ruling generals that they have international
obligations we expect them to heed, a State Department official said. He
said the Burmese relationship with North Korea was something that we watch
very, very carefully.
Burma, which its generals have renamed Myanmar, has made clear its nuclear
ambitions by agreeing terms with Russia for the sale of a light-water
But the deal is on hold after the generals refused to update its small
quantities protocol with the IAEA, which exempts it from regular
The Burmese government has dismissed the latest claims as accusations based
solely on the fabrications of deserters, fugitives and exiles.
Mr Kelley, a veteran of inspections in Libya, Iraq and South Africa, said that
the machines photographed by Win were all prototypes.
The quality of workmanship is extremely poor and their expertise is poor. I
am not saying that this is a nuclear weapons programme that is about to
scare us tomorrow, he said. What I am saying is the intent to build
nuclear weapons is much more clear now. Burma has signed a memorandum of
understanding with North Korea to build Scud missiles, a conventional
North Korea has also offered assistance with underground facilities and to
develop missiles with a range of 1,860 miles. The US navy recently followed
a North Korean freighter heading towards Burma with unknown cargo. The ship
turned around and returned home.