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“N Korea shipment of missile-grade materials to Myanmar has nothing to do with gov’t,” says President Office
Published on Tuesday, 27 November 2012 22:27
(Photo-The Asahi Shimbun)
Source: The Asahi Shimbun
Japanese authorities seized materials suitable for uranium enrichment aboard a cargo vessel docked at Tokyo Port on August 22, The Asahi Shimbun reported. Regarding this information, director Zaw Htay of the President's Office denied that it has nothing to do with Myanmar government but with the company (Soe Min Htaik Company), quoted Yangon Times Journal.
North Korea tried to ship uranium and missile-grade materials to Myanmar via China this year, thereby violating a U.N Security Council resolution, The Asahi Shimbun said.
The shipment included about 50 metal pipes and 15 high-specification aluminum alloy bars, at least some of them offering the high strength needed in centrifuges for a nuclear weapons program.
The sources said the cargo was loaded onto the 17,138-ton Wan Hai 215, a Singapore-registered cargo vessel operated by a Taiwanese shipping company, in Dalian on July 27.
On August 9, the cargo was offloaded and placed aboard the 27,800-ton Wan Hai 313 in Shekou, China.
On August 14, the cargo was scheduled to change ships once again in Malaysia and to reach Yangon Port the following day.
The United States learned about the cargo's possible contents and asked the Taiwanese shipping company not to carry out the transshipment in Malaysia.
The Wan Hai 313 entered Tokyo Port on Aug. 22. Officers from Tokyo Customs, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and other agencies examined the cargo and found the items in question.
Japan seized the items aboard a cargo vessel docked at Tokyo Port on Aug. 22, a raid which took place at the request of the United States, sources told The Asahi Shimbun.
Authorities concluded that the shipment originated in North Korea because the bars were found to be inscribed "DPRK," although investigators were unable to confirm the origin from cargo documents or from the ship's crew, the sources said.
For the first time, Japan applied a special measures law that allows the government to inspect cargo on ships suspected of carrying weapons and related materials to and from North Korea.
The cargo was to have been delivered to Soe Ming Htike, a Yangon-based construction company, which the U.S. government believes is a front for Myanmar's military procurement.
In an interview with The Asahi Shimbun, a company based in Dalian, China, confirmed that it had tried to send aluminum alloy to Myanmar.
"We became the cargo's owner at the request of a company," an official said. "We have learned that the cargo was seized, but we do not know why."
The Japanese government officials believe North Korea acquired the aluminum alloy bars from China and said North Korea does not have the technology to produce the materials. They also believe that the Chinese government has given an approval to send the materials to North Korea.
US, Japan and South Korea believe Myanmar has abandoned its one-time nuclear weapon projects. However, the Japanese government officials now suspect the aluminum alloy bars may have been intended for use in building missiles.
During US President Barack Obama’s visit to Yangon on November 19, he met with President Thein Sein and discussed about military ties between Myanmar and North Korea. Pyongyang has also criticised US pressure on Myanmar to sever ties with North Korea.
Meanwhile, the discovery could force Japan, US and South Korea to review their nuclear nonproliferation policy.
A Japanese government source said since North Korea has no apparent difficulty procuring the necessary aluminum alloy it now likely "has acquired a large number of centrifuges."
In November 2010, North Korea showed centrifuges to U.S. experts at a nuclear facility at Yongbyon. Officials claimed there were 2,000 centrifuges, enough to produce 40 kilograms of highly enriched uranium in one year, if certain conditions are met. That amount is sufficient for one or two nuclear bombs
The U.S. and South Korean intelligence agencies suspect that North Korea is operating additional underground uranium enrichment facilities elsewhere.
"North Korea would never disclose all its cards," one South Korean government source said. "There must be other facilities."
It is difficult to monitor the activities of centrifuges with an intelligence satellite because the site needed is small compared with the large reactor needed to produce plutonium for bombs.
North Korea and Myanmar have had military ties for years.
Sources quoted Shwe Mann, speaker of Myanmar's lower house, as recently telling Japanese government officials that North Korea has yet to deliver some weapons ordered by Myanmar in the past. But, the speaker insisted, Myanmar would pursue no new weapons purchases from North Korea.
Shwe Mann's remark effectively contradicts Myanmar's official stance that it has not had any military transactions since spring 2011.
The United States and South Korea learned that Myanmar signed contracts to purchase military supplies from North Korea when Shwe Mann visited the country in November 2008 as joint chief of staff. Among facilities Shwe Mann inspected was a North Korean missile factory.
In January, a ship arrived at Yangon Port via China, carrying cargo that had been loaded in Nampho, North Korea, ordered by an organization affiliated with the Myanmar military.
"The cargo was a primary machine tool for weapons manufacture," said a diplomatic source in Yangon. "Military ties between Myanmar and North Korea have not been cut off."
Soe Min Hitke Construction Company in Yangon imported China-made military equipments including military trucks in last 20 years, sources reported. Moreover, Myanmar has other companies that are importing military materials saying it is for business purposes.
Regarding the news about containers from North Korea to Myanmar by Asahi Shimbun News, Zaw Htay, Director of President Office, countered as follows:
1) The case happened in August, and it is learnt the Japanese government did not officially announce it. Myanmar President has recently made discussions with Japanese Prime Minister during the ASEAN SUMMIT in Cambodia, and it can be seen that Myanmar-Japan relations are improving.
2) The press release numbered (2/2012) issued on 18.11.2012 by the information team is as follows;
(a) The President has agreed with the revision of 1995 Small Quantities Protocol and to sign agreement on Additional Protocol between the union government and International Atomic Energy Agency, and so the issues will be submitted to the parliament. (The parliament also agreed and now in the process of signing.)
(b) Myanmar is a member since the foundation of IAEA in 1957 and signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in December, 1992. In 1995, Myanmar also signed Small Quantities Protocol aftermath of NPT and Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty and Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1996.
(c) As the Union government is a member of United Nations (UN), the government strictly follows the UN Resolution 1874.
3. Myanmar had earlier planned to implement a research project on nuclear reactor. However, due to lack of funds and technology, and in the backdrop of misconception of the international community, Myanmar discarded the research plan in the time of new civilian government headed by the President. It can be obviously seen that the President himself explained this matter at every appropriate and opportune time.
Zaw Htay observed that when one looks at all the developments in retrospect after the reporting of Asahi Shubun on 22 August, it can be witnessed that major events have taken place such as the discussions with the Japanese Prime Minister, the continuous meetings and discussions with the international leaders, and the historic visit of US President Obama. With all these positive developments in the country in the upbeat, one can imagine and assess the ground reality of Myanmar after the reporting of Asahi Shinbun, he concluded.