Critical Questions for the Obama Administration on Burma–North Korea Ties
Walter Lohman /
In a discussion at Heritage last week examining U.S.–Burma military-to-military relations, former Senate Foreign Relations Committee professional staff Keith Luse laid out his personal opinion on the issue and raised 10 very specific questions for Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel regarding Burma’s relationship with North Korea. The Administration would do well to answer them.
1. Going back over the past 13 years, what is the complete list of the multiple military and other projects where North Korean technicians and officials have been present or working inside Burma?
2. Which of the projects or facilities where North Koreans have been or are present have or had a role, directly or indirectly, in the development of Burma’s missile and/or nuclear programs?
3. North Korean trading companies that reportedly assisted Syria with the development of its nuclear program have also been or are working in Burma. What has been their role in the development of Burma’s nuclear and missile programs?
4. In recent years, North Korean technicians and other workers have entered Burma via Chinese air flights originating in China. A considerable amount of military equipment and weaponry supplied to Burma by North Korea has entered Burma via overland transit through China. To what degree has China’s complicity with the major expansion of the North Korea–Burma military relationship been raised with the Chinese by the U.S., the European Union, and others in the international community?
5. Russia has been transparent in reporting much of its role in the development of Burma’s nuclear program. What has been or is China’s direct role—officially and unofficially—in the development of Burma’s nuclear and missile programs? How do North Korean state trading companies’ Chinese partners play a role in assisting Burmese nuclear and missile programs?
6. What is the total list of countries that have knowingly or unknowingly (e.g., in the shipment of dual-use items) assisted Burma with development of its nuclear and missile programs?
7. To what degree has North Korea’s ramping up of Burma’s military capabilities been raised with North Korea by the U.S., the EU, and others in the international community?
8. Ranging from scuds to submarines to defense radar systems, what is the full inventory of military equipment and weapons provided or planned on being provided by North Korea to Burma?
9. While there have been extensive media headlines as to whether North Korean missiles can reach the United States, there has largely been public disregard of North Korea’s global network of trading companies and affiliates capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and/or components anywhere in the world. Has the presence of multiple North Korean trading companies within Burma established another beachhead for North Korea’s global proliferation capabilities? Does the North Korea WMD highway now link Iran, Syria, Burma, and Pakistan?
10. Why are Burma’s leaders waffling on the encouragement to terminate the military relationship with North Korea? Perhaps they believe that time is on their side—that the international community will swallow concern and questions about the North Korea military connection so as to satisfy the appetite of many in the international community desiring to offset China’s business and development influence within Burma.