Myanmar denies interest in N Korean nukes

2012-01-31 13:06
Singapore - Myanmar President Thein Sein has denied his country is trying to obtain nuclear weapons from North Korea, describing allegations of a covert programme as "unfounded".

"We are not acquiring nuclear weapons from North Korea," the Straits Times newspaper on Tuesday quoted him as saying in an interview during a four-day state visit to Singapore.

"These allegations are unfounded and based on suspicion by some Western countries."

A 2010 United Nations report accused Pyongyang of supplying banned nuclear and ballistic equipment to Myanmar, Iran and Syria.

In a landmark visit to Myanmar in December, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on the country to sever "illicit ties" with Pyongyang to foster better relations with Washington.

Clinton said that Thein Sein had given "strong assurances" that Myanmar would abide by United Nations resolutions under which weapons exports from North Korea are banned.

Too poor for nukes

The leader's latest reassurance comes on top of a similar statement in June 2010, when the then-ruling military junta said it had no intention of a tie-up with Pyongyang to build an atomic bomb.

The US also said in November last year it had not detected any signs of a major nuclear programme in Myanmar and downplayed defector accounts that the country was developing an advanced atomic weapons system with North Korea.

Myanmar has maintained that it is too poor to acquire nuclear weapons and that it has always abided by UN resolutions, even halting a Russia-backed peaceful nuclear research programme because of international concerns.

The Southeast Asian country is undergoing a raft of dramatic political reforms that have surprised critics after ending almost half a century of military rule about nine months ago.

Peace talks and with ethnic rebel groups, pardons of prominent dissidents and the release of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest have been warmly welcomed by an initially-sceptical international community.

Healthy democracy

Thein Sein's government has also received plaudits for allowing Suu Kyi to stand for a parliamentary seat, with the Nobel Peace Prize winner greeted by huge rapturous crowds wherever she campaigns.

Thein Sein - an ex-general who became president at the head of a nominally civilian government last year - promised during his visit to Singapore to establish a "healthy democracy" in Myanmar.

"We have turned a new page in our country in order to create better conditions in Myanmar," he said at a state banquet held by Singapore leaders on Monday.

"We want to give a brighter future for our people."

"We want our people to take part in the democratic reform process and we want democracy to thrive in Myanmar. I wish to assure you that I shall endeavour to establish a healthy democracy in Myanmar."

Read more on:    thein sein  |  myanmar  |  north korea  |  north korea nuclear programme  |  nuclear

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