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nuclear weapons in…Burma?

July 27, 2009

burma_street_wideweb__470x310,2Can this be?  A country that still uses 1920’s era infrastructure left over from the British may be considering obtaining nuclear weapons from the North Koreans?  This Burmese dictatorship, who regularly brutalizes its citizens and its religious clergy is capable of…this?

The evidence of malfeasance so far is slight: a North Korean ship bound for Burma that turned back when shadowed by the U.S. Navy, photos of tunnels being excavated near the new Burmese capital, and a handful of suspicious export cases. But the motive is there, a government official who monitors the country told me. “Burma’s leaders are paranoid and it makes sense that they might look for security in a nuclear weapon,” he said. And if the history of proliferation teaches us anything, it is that the best way to stop a covert nuclear program is by ringing the alarm bells early and often.

Indeed, the early stages of what might be Burmese nuclear attempts look eerily familiar. The first leaks about Israel’s nuclear program in the late 1950s, which involved several dubious explanations for a suspicious construction site in the desert, were ignored — and Israel eventually developed the bomb. The same story held true for both India and Pakistan, where results might have been different had the international community reacted to suspicious procurement activities. Then, of course, there is Iran, where the desire for a nuclear weapon dates back to the mid-70s and now it may be too late to stop them. Signs that the present rulers of Iran were buying nuclear technology on the black market in the late 1980s were dismissed because U.S. intelligence thought a bomb was beyond Iran’s capabilities.

I’d like to see some more evidence of this before drawing any conclusions.

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