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2 August 2009

Report says Myanmar on track to own A-bomb in 5 years

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North Korea is helping Myanmar build a secret nuclear reactor and plutonium extraction plant to build an atomic bomb within five years, an investigative report in an Australian daily said Saturday.

Citing the evidence of defectors, the Sydney Morning Herald on August 1 reported that the nuclear complex is hidden inside a mountain at Naung Laing, in Myanmar's north, and runs parallel to a civil reactor being built at another site by Russia.

Defectors codenamed Moe Jo and Tin Min reportedly told Australian investigator Desmond Ball the military junta has nuclear ambitions that far exceed its official line. Moe Jo was a former army officer. Tin Min was said to have been a bookkeeper for Tay Za, a close associate of the junta's head General Than Shwe. 

"They say it's to produce medical isotopes for health purposes in hospitals," Ball said, quoting Tin Min about the prospect of a Myanmar nuclear programme.

"In the event that the testimony of the defectors is proved, the alleged secret reactor could be capable of being operational and producing one bomb a year, every year, after 2014," Ball wrote in the newspaper.

In July, the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, during her visit to Thailand for a regional security meeting, directly raised the issue of growing military co-operation between North Korea and Myanmar.

The unease escalated when a North Korean freighter, the Kang Nam I, steamed towards Myanmar in July carrying undisclosed cargo. A South Korean intelligence expert, quoted anonymously, claimed satellite imagery showed the ship was part of clandestine nuclear transfer and also carried long-range missiles. Shadowed by the US Navy, the vessel eventually turned around and returned home.

Japanese police also recently caught a North Korean and two Japanese nationals allegedly trying to export a magnetic measuring device to Burma that could be used to develop missiles.


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