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Burma is among a “core” group of nations still receiving conventional weapons from North Korea, says a 2013 US Department of Defense (USDoD) report to Congress, made public on Wednesday.
While the report acknowledges that Burma has “begun to distance itself from North Korea”, the US has included Burma alongside Iran and Syria as notable recipients of “conventional and ballistic missile-related equipment, components, materials, and technical assistance”.
Examples of conventional weapons include ammunition, small arms, artillery, armoured vehicles and surface-to-air missiles.
The supply of weapons as well as related technical training from North Korea is prohibited across four United Nations Security Council resolutions.
The USDoD believes weapons have been made available to Burma via secretive channels out of the isolated Communist state.
The report alleges that UNSCRs have been circumvented by “falsifying end-user certificates, mislabeling crates, sending cargo through multiple front companies and intermediaries, and using air cargo for deliveries of high-value and sensitive arms exports.”
Last year, reports surfaced documenting the prevalence of disguised North Korean exports to Burma. Bertil Lintner, an expert on the Burma-North Korea relationship, then published an article in NK News alleging that North Korean ships have been told to use “discretionary” tactics such as the use of false maritime flags.
In 2011 the US Navy intercepted a North Korean vessel in the South China Sea flying the flag of Belize, believed to be on route to Burma. The report released Wednesday notes this incident, recounting: “The vessel bound for Burma suspected of carrying military-related cargo, returned to North Korea after refusing a US Navy inspection request”.
Presidential Spokesperson and Deputy Minister for Information Ye Htut told DVB on Thursday that he has not read the report, but that, “Myanmar [Burma] only has a diplomatic relationship with North Korea, we have no military ties.”
“We fully abide by UN resolutions on North Korea”, Ye Htut said.
This comes despite the US continuing to raise the issue with Burmese political and military chiefs. Late last year the US Treasury banned Americans from doing business with Lt-Col Kyaw Nyunt Oo, Asia Metal Company Ltd, Soe Min Htike Co Ltd and Excellence Mineral Manufacturing Co Ltd by virtue of their involvement in the North Korean arms trade.
Bertil Lintner told DVB on Thursday that he believes the Burmese military sector still employs North Korean technicians and that link facilitates the importation of equipment.
Linter has previously told DVB that he believes North Korean technicians are helping Burma to build a SCUD-type missile.
The US believes that arms provision to nations such as Burma is one of North Korea’s last remaining avenues for obtaining the funds required for its own military stockpiling.
The USDoD report also notes that North Korea has begun developing drones.