Archive for July, 2010

DPRK seeks to repay debt in ginseng

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

UPDATE: This story was picked up by the Financial Times (8/11/2010):

North Korea has offered the Czech Republic 20 tonnes of ginseng in lieu of payment for some of its debts.

However, Prague has turned down the deal, instead suggesting that Pyongyang pays in the valuable mineral zinc, which can be resold on international markets.

North Korea owes the Czech Republic $10m from the days when the Czech Republic was under communist rule and the two countries traded with each other regularly. Communist Czechoslovakia was a leading supplier of trucks, trams and machinery to North Korea, creating a large pile of debt.

Pyongyang reportedly offered $500,000 worth of ginseng, a root which is reputed to boost memory, stamina and libido, as a down payment.

However, consumption of ginseng in the European country is low, with just 1.4 tonnes used each year.

North Korea’s economy is struggling as international sanctions tighten and it hopes to be able to barter its way out of handing over valuable cash.

Non-cash transactions between socialist countries is common, with Cuba sending Venezuela doctors in exchange for discounted oil.

A Czech government spokesman has said that the countries were in negotiation over how the debt would be paid.

“We have been trying to convince them to send, for instance, a shipment of zinc,” the deputy finance minister told the MF Dnes newspaper.

ORIGINAL POST: According to the Korea Times:

North Korea has offered to pay its debt to the Czech government with ginseng, according to a local Czech daily newspaper.

MF DNES, a daily newspaper based in Prague, reported last Saturday that North Korea has recently suggested to the Czech Finance Ministry that it would pay 5 percent of its debt — approximately $500,000 — with ginseng.

“We are trying to persuade them (North Korea) to give us, for example a bulk of Zinc instead, so that we could sell it to someone else,” Tomas Zidek, deputy finance minister, told the newspaper in Czech.

North Korea is believed to have a significant amount of zinc in deposits.

The paper went on to say the consumption of ginseng in the Czech Republic is very small, and it only imported 1.4 tons last year. The amount of ginseng worth $500,000 will be roughly 400 tons, securing the supply for more than 200 years.

But, to Czech’s disappointment, North Korea seemed to have made up its mind, as it sent a delegation with samples of ginseng.

North Korea is known to be Czech’s 10th biggest debtor, which goes back to the communist governments. The North bought many trams and vehicles from former Czechoslovakia.

Read the full story here:
North Korea wants to pay back debt in ginseng
Korea Times
Kim Se-jeong


Complex organization of North Korean companies

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

According ot the Choson Ilbo:

Hong Kong government investigators have inspected an office in the territory belonging to North Korea’s Taepung International Investment Group as part of U.S.-led financial sanctions against North Korea. Taepung is charged with attracting foreign investment to the North.

Investigators say that the company registered itself under the address Rm.# 2508, Lippo Centre, Hong Kong with the authorities, but the only office at that address is the Law Office of Ho, Wong and Wong.

Companies registry documents obtained by the Chosun Ilbo show a complicated network of related businesses. It was established in April 2006 with parent company Taepung International Investment Holdings owning all of its shares. Taepung is capitalized at 20 million Hong Kong dollars (W3.2 billion).

It registered a company called Saiying, also listed at the Lippo Centre address, as its corporate secretary, which serves as a bridge with the Hong Kong government. China Deals Finder, which was in turn registered as the corporate secretary of Saiying, also has the same address.

The parent companies of both Saiying and CDF are registered under the same address in tax haven the Virgin Islands. They are paper companies capitalized at 50,000 and 10,000 dollars respectively and have shifted addresses, board of directors and secretaries several times. The law office of Ho, Wong and Wong handled the reporting of each change.

“It appears that Taepung turned to the aid of a legal expert to conceal the identity of its true owner and make it difficult to track its financial activities,” said a financial expert in Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong government has stressed its intend to comply with UN resolutions  According to Yonhap:

The government of Hong Kong affirmed its commitment Friday to continue implementing punitive U.N. sanctions imposed on North Korea to end its nuclear ambitions.

“Hong Kong will continue to exercise vigilance in enforcing our regulation to effectively implement the United Nations Security Coucil sanctions against DPRK,” Josephine Lo, an official at the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau of the Hong Kong government, told Yonhap News, using the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“Our law enforcement agencies will take appropriate actions on those found in violation of the laws,” she said.

The comment was made after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s announcement Wednesday that the U.S. will hit North Korea with a new set of sanctions to punish it for its sinking of a South Korean warship and prevent it from further provocations.

Those sanctions will “strengthen our enforcement of U.N. Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874” adopted after North Korea’s first and second nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, Clinton said at a joint press conference in Seoul after a meeting with South Korea’s foreign and defense ministers.

Hong Kong legislated what is called the U.N. Sanctions Regulation in June 2007 to implement the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718, according to Lo.

In January, Hong Kong amended the regulation to implement the new and expanded sanctions against North Korea under the Security Council Resolution 1874, she said.

A source here said earlier Friday that the United States has identified about 200 bank accounts with links to North Korea, and that the country is expected to freeze some 100 of those suspected of being used for weapons exports and other illicit purposes banned under U.N. resolutions.

The U.S. State Department said the U.S. will carry out new sanctions within two weeks to cut off money from illicit trafficking of weapons of mass destruction and counterfeit currency or luxury goods flowing into the North Korean leadership.

North Korea has bristled at the announcement of new sanctions and Seoul’s plan to conduct large-scale joint naval exercises with the U.S., claiming the moves pose grave threats to regional peace.

Read the full stories here:
Probe Reveals Elusive Structure of N.Korean Company
Choson Ilbo

Hong Kong to continue implementing U.N. sanctions on N. Korea
Kim Young-gyo


Hikes in prices and exchange rates again shake DPRK markets

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No.10-07-19-4

Market prices in North Korea, which had been falling since March, have again begun to grow since the second week of July. This year’s prices have not followed the trends normally seen in the North; usually, prices fluctuate around the April~May lean crop season. According to a Daily NK source within North Korea, rice cost 450-500 won/Kg at the Hyeryeong Market, in North Hamgyeong Province, up until the end of June. However, prices had shot up to 750 won/Kg by July 13. Corn had also risen to more than 400 won/Kg. Along with the rise in prices, the exchange rate for won-to-yuan rose to 150:1, indicating that the value of the North Korean won had plummeted to a very low level.

Since the mid-2000s, as market economics expanded in the North, food prices tended to shoot up during the lean season of April~May every year. After potato and barley harvests in late June, prices again rise until September, when food prices tend to drop in anticipation of fall grain harvests. Because of this trend, most market traders spend November and December concentrating on buying up food stocks, and they then actively sell their food stores after April. Government authorities have also been known to stockpile food at the end of a year in order to resell after April at considerably higher prices. This regular fluctuation of prices also leads most North Koreans to stockpile all the food they can in December and January.

However, with the currency reform efforts enacted last November 30, North Korea’s food prices set off on a very different trend. Because the North Korean authorities closed markets after last year’s currency reform, January rice prices soared to sixty times as much as before the reform measure. Markets were allowed to reopen after February 5, but food prices remained unstable through mid-March. As the food stockpiling that North Koreans needed to do in December was delayed until March, spring sales were driven more by demand than by supply.

At the beginning of April, Pyongyang authorized the distribution of a small amount of food. Residents of the capital city received enough corn to get through May and June, and these rations, along with rumors of food imports following Kim Jong Il’s trip to China, helped stabilize prices. However, this stability faltered after less than two months. Anticipated Chinese food imports never materialized, and authorities discussed food shortages. In May, North Ham Province party officials released an order titled ‘Each unit is to resolve the food problems in the latter half of the year’. The lack of food and confidence circulating even at government levels again undermined market stability.

A continually soaring exchange rate also drove up prices. The won-to-yuan rate had climbed to 110:1 by June, and in late July has risen to 150:1. North Korean prices rise with the exchange rate, so without food price stabilization measures from the government, food costs will likely continue to grow.

Traders in Hyesan, Yanggang Province have more freedom to trade than most in North Korea, and are permitted to cross over into China once every two weeks in order to purchase goods to sell in North Korean markets. However, prices in the region continue to grow as demand cannot be met, due in part to the rising exchange rate that makes it increasingly expensive to import Chinese goods.

In the aftermath of the currency reform, North Korean authorities have released some food originally slated for military use and enacted measures to force down prices in an attempt to sooth the public. But, these attempts provided only temporary stability, and cracks are again appearing under the weight of rising exchange rates.

North Korea is planning to hold the first meeting of Party leaders in 44 years, and the state media has been emphasizing the economic successes of Kim Jong Eun in order to shore up support for him. Despite the press, however, average citizens in the North only see rising prices. Recently, due to the harvest season, Hyesan markets have been open only between 3:00 and 7:00 in the afternoon. Despite the limited hours, when doors open there is no apparent crackdown on prices or on the use of foreign currency, and markets are operating freely. However, since increasing numbers of North Koreans find themselves broke after the currency reform, sales are still slow.

The North’s economic situation is likely to get worse. Flooding during the July-August rainy season could have a detrimental impact of fall harvests. Farms already suffered from frosts in the spring, raising expectations that this year’s harvests will be lean. If fall harvests are light, concerns over food could grow, further destabilizing the food markets. Food prices are expected to continue to rise, and if this inflation impacts other goods, as well, disturbances such as those seen in January are likely to occur.


Leaked US military docs accuse NK of proliferation to al-Quaeda

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

UPDATE (8/9/2010): The Washington Post hosted a discussion on this topic which was interesting:

Michael Scheuer, a former CIA analyst who once ran the agency’s bin Laden unit, doubts that the Taliban has bought North Korean’s version of the Stinger.

It doesn’t need them, he says.

“They have the weapons from non-North Korean sources, but why bother using them?” he said. “They are beating the U.S. and NATO with a smaller array of weapons than they needed to drive out 40th [Soviet Red] Army, so why use the stockpiled weapons if we are going to beat ourselves?”

Even if the Taliban has them, says Gary Berntsen, a former CIA officer in Afghanistan, the rebels would risk their lives every time they turned them on.

Instead, he said, “They have, and try to use, dishkas,” Russian heavy anti-aircraft machine guns “that can knock down a helicopter with troops.”

As soon as a spy reports the rebels dragging one forward for an attack, he said, NATO forces’ electronic ears and eyes start looking for it.

“It’s a dangerous game of cat and mouse,” said Bertnsen, who has returned to Afghanistan as a military adviser in recent years but is now the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in New York.

Of course, the report of the North Korea visit by Hekmatyar and bin Laden aide Amin al-Haq (or ul-Haq) might well have been false — or even fabricated to implicate Pyongyang, some sources said.

As one former senior CIA officer put it, “You are right to distrust information on this topic, since every serious intelligence organization in the world, and certainly our own, is probably engaged in disinformation as part of a general psy-ops program.”

Hekmetyar, he pointed out, could “get in touch with the North Koreans without a traceable trip to Pyongyang, like by sending an emissary to [their] embassy in Islamabad or some other Third World country nearby, including Iran.”

When the first reports of the helicopter shoot-down arrived in 2007, word spread in intelligence circles that the culprit was an Iranian-supplied weapon, one person familiar with the incident recalled. It was a time when hardline elements in the Bush administration were pushing for regime change in Iran, he noted.

A military intelligence officer also theorized the report was fabricated, but by different parties, for a different reason.

“My thoughts are that perhaps the intelligence report might have been provided by a HUMINT [human intelligence] source under the hostile control of either Iran or Pakistan, to deliberately mislead us and turn attention away from them as the providers of such weapon systems and blame the North Koreans.”

The silence of the Taliban missiles, in short, remains a mystery.

Except, perhaps, to U.S. military officials in Kabul, who sound grateful.

“There’s been no recent activity suggesting that these weapons are a threat,” an unidentified U.S. official told CNN, “as attested by the volume of our daily air activity and the causes of aircraft incidents, which we report.”

ORIGINAL POST (6/27/2010): According to the Washington Post:

A powerful Afghan insurgent leader and a man identified as Osama Bin Laden’s financial adviser purchased ground-to-air missiles from North Korea in 2005, according to an uncorroborated U.S. intelligence report released by Wikileaks on Sunday.

“On 19 November 2005, Hezb-Islami party leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar [sic] and Dr. Amin [no last name], Osama Bin Ladin’s financial advisor, both flew to North Korea departing from Iran,” the undated report said.

“While in North Korea, the two confirmed a deal with the North Korean government for remote controlled rockets for use against American and coalition aircraft,” said the report, whose origin could not be determined from the version published on the Wikileaks site.

Wikileaks had previously said it planned to strip any markings from the documents that might help U.S. law enforcement agencies identify who leaked them.

The intelligence report said, “The shipment of said weapons is expected shortly after the New Year,” meaning the beginning of 2006.

The terms of the deal were not reported.

“The two men stayed in North Korea for two weeks, returning to Helmand, Afghanistan around Dec. 3,” the report said. Hekmatyar proceeded to eastern Afghanistan.

Then, about 18 months later, according a previously undisclosed after-action military report obtained by Wikileaks, a CH-47 Chinook helicopter was downed by a missile “shortly after crossing over the Helmand River.”

“The impact of the missile projected the aft end of the aircraft up as it burst into flames followed immediately by a nose dive into the crash site with no survivors,” the May 30, 2007 report added.

“Based on description of launch, size of round, and impact force of the projectile,” the report said, “it is assessed to be bigger then an RPG [rocket propelled grenade] and possibly a Surface-to-Air Missile.”

It added, “Witness statements from (troops) suggest (it) was struck by a MANPAD and is consistent with MANPAD event described by Arrow 25.”

The name of the alleged Bin Laden financial adviser who went to North Korea, “Dr. Amin,” could not immediately be found in media reports, scholarly papers or books. If such a man exists, he would be the latest of several individuals identified as filling that role over the years.

Nor could any previous reports linking North Korea to the Afghan insurgency be immediately located.

If true, it illustrates the length to which North Korea will go to kick the United States — and generate cash for its sanctions-strapped economy, experts said.

“If they are a paying customer, that would help the North Korean cash flow,” said one of them, Terence J. Roehrig, a professor of national security decision-making at the Naval War College who has written about North Korea. “Arms sales are an important source of income for the regime.”

The United States and and South Korea are conducting joint naval maneuvers in a show of force to North Korea. Pyongyang has vowed to respond with “a sacred war and a powerful nuclear deterrence.”

Read the full story here:
Wikileaks documents: N. Korea sold missiles to al-Qaeda, Taliban
Washington Post
Jeff Stein


Anti-socialist computer inspections

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

According ot the Daily NK:

Since June 20, a thorough inspection of overseas media in the areas of the North Hamkyung Province has been conducted. The inspection has focused in particular on word processing software attached to computer operating system like Windows XP and video and audio playing programs.

A source from the North Hamkyung Province stated that, “This inspection has been led by the No. 109 Anti-Socialist Inspection Group, consisting of agents from the Provincial National Security Agency, the Provincial People Safety Ministry and the Provincial Prosecutor Office of North Hamkyung Province. It will continue until August 10.”

According to the source, it shows a change to previous general anti-socialist inspections.

Computer programs are a specific target of the inspection including computers set up at schools and public offices. According to North Korean regulations, only self-developed computer programs are allowed to be used. To this end, the North developed and distributed “Red Star” in the last year, an operating system based on Linux.

In reality most computers are installed with Chinese versions of Windows XP and MS-office. Since most computers in North Korea are imported from China, Chinese versions of the software have spread throughout the country. Once the Korean language packages have been installed on the PC, writing a document in Korean language is possible but North Korean authorities are concerned about the use of Chinese versions of word processing programs based on Chinese language OS tools.

Illegally copied software is being sold at very low prices, around three to five Yuan (0.4-0.7 dollars), in Yanji, China.

The Inspection Group is also concentrating on video and audio programs. As desktop and laptop computers are distributed amongst North Korean individuals, there is concern about South Korean films and music being circulated through external hard drives and USB memory sticks.

In addition to that, it is considered unusual that the Provincial Committee of the Party in North Hamkyung Province organized the Joint Inspection Group. Previously, the National Security Agency and People’s Safety Ministry have been responsible for inspections on anti-system or anti-regime inspections. However, when the case authorities felt they needed to implement an intensive examination of border regions, a joint inspection group was organized not by provincial authorities, but by the authorities in Pyongyang. This consists of agents from the Workers’ Party, the National Security Agency, the People’s Safety Ministry, the Central Prosecutor Office, and the Defense Security Command of the People’s Army.

A source commented that, “Since Kim Jong Il visited his mother’s (Kim Jong Suk) hometown late last year, his focus on the region of North Hamkyung Province, of course, including Hoiryeong has increased. Nevertheless, the Provincial Committee of the Party has been concerned about increased anti-socialist elements like smuggling and crossing the border.”

He went on, “At the same time, preparatory tasks are required in the border province prior to the Delegate’s Conference of the Chosun Workers’ Party, due in September; the first time in forty four years.”

In addition, the effect of the inspection will increase with cross checking carried out by the North Hamkyung Provincial Committee of the Party. Authorities will ensure that agents are excluded from inspecting their own residential area and unit as at least 200 come from areas of the North Hamkyung Province.

The source stated that, “The inspection is filled with rumors that will be difficult to evade, even with money and the right family background. Rewards or promotions will be offered to those inspection agents who carry out the most diligent and principled work. Any agents found to be incorrectly carrying out their duty may be sentenced to labor training camp or, in serious situations, reeducation camps.”

Read the full story here:
North Korea Controls Chinese Windows XP
Daily NK
Yoo Gwan Hee


Wilson Center NKIDP document readers

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

The Woodrow Wilson Center’s North Korea International Documentation Project has published some more great document readers compiled from archives in the Soviet Union, USA, ROK, China, Hungary, Romania, Poland and East Germany.

The Rise and Fall of the Detente on the Korean Peninsula: 1970-1974
Download PDF here
A collection of archival documents on inter-Korean, US-ROK and DPRK-Communist bloc relations from 1970 to 1974 compiled in preparation for a 1-2 July 2010 conference.

New Evidence on North Korea
Download PDF here
New archival documents from Russia, China, South Korea, Hungary, Romania, Poland and (East) Germany on North Korean history from 1955-1984.

New Evidence on the Korean War
Download PDF here
New documentary evidence on the Korean War from Russian, Polish and other archives. Compiled in connection with the 16-17 June 2010 conference New Documents and New Histories: Twenty-First Century Perspectives on the Korean War.

A press conference was held at the Truman Presidential Library announcing the release of the latter two Document Readers–which was carried on C-SPAN. You can watch it here.


Official DPRK merchandise

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

Remember it’s not official DPRK merchandise unless it says “Made in the DPR of Korea” on the bottom.

A woman in Poland  was rummaging through her kitchenware and stumbled on a bowl made in the DPRK:


Can anyone translate the Hangul?  “An tuk Gang”?  Maybe the name of the factory?  Mt. Paektu is featured in the logo.  I am not sure what the “7” means.

Henrik offers a better translation of the logo in the comments:

As far as I can see, the stamp says “압록강” which translates as “Amnok gang”, meaning the Amnok (or Yalu) river.

The stamp might actually show the bridge between Dandong and Sinuiju, with boats going under it too.

A further question which a Korea linguist might be able to explain to me is why  “압록강” is translated as “Amnok River” and not “Abrok River”…

Here is a picture of the bowl.  It appears to be a pressed metal sheet with an enamel coating.  They still make bowls this way today in the DPRK.

(h/t MR)


India-DPRK trade expanding

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

According to Forbes:

Last year India exported roughly $1 billion to North Korea, up from an average of barely $100 million in the middle of the past decade, reports the Confederation of Indian Industry, a trade organization–most of that in refined petroleum products. The trade group says that North Korea’s exports to India were a minuscule $57 million, including silver and auto parts. (South Korean trade figures suggest India’s exports are much lower.)

The commercial tie has no deep historical roots and is curious, to say the least, given Pyongyang’s closeness with China, India’s commercial rival, and its connection to the A.Q. Khan nuclear network in Pakistan, India’s enemy.

North Korea needs oil to maintain power plants and to keep its outsize military on the move. It apparently has enough hard- currency reserve from its murky export trade to buy on the spot market. India, for its part, has ramped up refining but gotten ahead of domestic demand. Further, by keeping an artificial lid on pump prices until recently, Indian policy encouraged these oil sector producers to look for clients overseas. “India is the largest exporter of refined products east of the Suez [meaning the Middle East and Asia],” says Fereidun Fesharaki, chairman of Facts Global Energy in Singapore. A lot of enhanced supply came online in 2009, mostly from Reliance Industries, which has the world’s largest refinery, and the Essar Group, the Mumbai steel and energy giant. At current usage and demand “India needs 15 years of demand to absorb this current supply,” he adds.

Until June the New Delhi government kept a cap on domestic gasoline prices, running up a $10 billion subsidy bill, or roughly 7% of its budget. While state-owned companies were compensated for their losses, those in the private sector were on their own, causing them to look for other markets, especially since the price for crude has doubled, to $78 per barrel since 2004. “Their incentive is [to find] who in the world is desperate enough to take the products, and it’s usually Iran or North Korea,” says Fesharaki.

Some North Korea watchers are caught off guard. “I was flabbergasted by the increase in trade,” says Stephan Haggard, director of the Korea-Pacific Program at UC, San Diego. “North Korea is basically engaged in close to barter trade.” No one seems more surprised than Pratap Singh, India’s ambassador to Pyongyang, who says he has no idea of trade volume because the North Koreans won’t supply credible data, much less working phone lines. “How did you manage to get through?” he asks a reporter.

Like other oil refiners, neither Reliance nor Essar exports fuel to North Korea directly. That’s too much of a risk politically (even though this trade isn’t barred under current UN sanctions) and economically, as Pyongyang has been known to slip on its payments. Instead, the fuel is sold through a network of traders and banks in Dubai and elsewhere. Trade data nevertheless record the origin of the refined petro goods.

Curiously, both New Delhi and the U.S. State Department, which have bumped along in relations complicated by India’s own nuclear development, show no alarm. A spokesman for India’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs says all international strictures are observed and nothing sinister is at hand. Washington won’t comment without verifying the data.

Perhaps a little more attention is in order since India is selling more than mere oil to North Korea. Last year, according to Indian trade data, India also exported $2 million in goods in a category called “nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances”–most likely water pumps, computer data storage units, ball bearings and machine tools. Could they be used to maintain a nuke plant in some way? Maybe.

“North Korea, over the years, has attained skills to disguise their trade activities and also to utilize materials they have for other purposes,” says Jennifer Lee, a research analyst at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. “Countries need to be especially careful in what they export to North Korea.”

Read the full story here:
Look Who’s Helping North Korea
Megha Bahree
(Magazine date: 8/9/2010)


China bans travel to Kumgang

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

According to Arirang News:

China has temporarily issued a ban on tours to North Korea’s Mount Geumgang resort.

A source in Beijing says the government has ordered local travel agencies to tentatively hold off on selling tour packages to Mount Geumgang and most agencies have responded by taking down such offers from their websites.

Observers say the latest move could be in line with Seoul’s request to Beijing in May to refrain from holding tours to certain areas of Mount Geumgang as North Korea has violated the terms of the contract by seizing South Korean assets at the resort.

While tours to the North Korean resort have been suspended since April following the sinking of the Cheonan China has been operating tours to Mount Geumgang since March.

Read full story here:
China Bans Tours to N. Korea’s Mount Geumgang Resort
Arirang News


Janes Intelligence Review confirms Myanmar nuke program

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

According to Bloomberg:

Allegations by a Myanmar defector that the military-run country is pursuing a nuclear program are corroborated by newly available commercial satellite images, Jane’s Intelligence Review said in an article released yesterday.

The photos of buildings and security fences near the country’s capital, Naypyidaw, confirm reports by Major Sai Thein Win of machine tool factories and other facilities alleged to be part of a nascent program to build nuclear weapons, the magazine reported from London.

“They will not make a bomb with the technology they currently possess or the intellectual capability,” Jane’s analyst Allison Puccioni said in an interview. “The two factors do make it possible to have a route to one.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed concern about reports that North Korea and Myanmar are expanding military ties and sharing nuclear technology at a meeting of Southeast Asian foreign ministers in Thailand last year.

Clinton said the U.S. would remain “vigilant” against any military cooperation between the two countries. Yesterday, Clinton announced further sanctions against North Korea in an effort to halt the country’s nuclear-weapons program.

Sai said he worked at two factories involved in the nuclear program. His report to a Burmese opposition news website, Democratic Voice of Burma, based in Norway, included documents and color photographs of the interior of the installations.

The satellite imagery reviewed by Jane’s showed only the exterior of the buildings, Puccioni said.

‘Overly Ambitious’

Jane’s said Myanmar’s nuclear program is “overly ambitious with limited expertise,” in a statement yesterday. While Myanmar is a signatory to international agreements to control nuclear weapons use, it hasn’t agreed to more recent changes in the treaties and therefore isn’t subject to international inspections, the magazine said.

“With Myanmar’s current freedom from sanctions and relative economic prosperity, the junta may be able to outsource the technical know-how and tools to reach its goals far sooner than expected,” Christian Le Mière, editor of Jane’s Intelligence Review, said in a statement.

“Someone had to be assisting them, that’s the frightening thing,” said David Kay, a former United Nations weapons inspector and now a fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies in Arlington, Virginia, in an interview. “Myanmar is uniquely incapable of carrying this through.”

North Korea could be the country providing aid, said Michael J. Green, an adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and former senior director for Asia on the National Security Council under President George W. Bush.

North Korea

During the Bush administration, North Korea discussed delivering short-range missiles and nuclear capability to Myanmar, Green said.

“We worry about the transfer of nuclear technology” and indications of clandestine military cooperation between two of Asia’s most secretive regimes, Clinton said last year. “I’m not saying it is happening, but we want to be prepared to stand against it.”

State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said on July 12 that the U.S. continues “to have concerns about Burma’s relationship with North Korea. It’s something that we watch very, very carefully and consistently.”

Last year, the U.S. Navy followed the Kang Nam I, a North Korean freighter headed in the direction of Myanmar with unknown cargo. The ship turned around and returned home.

The evidence points to a method of uranium enrichment, laser enrichment, that the North Koreans have never used, Kay said. “If it is laser enrichment the finger points more toward Chinese assistance or some place in the former Soviet Union,” he said.

Read the full story here:
Myanmar Nuclear Weapon Program Claims Supported by Photos, Jane’s Reports
Peter S. Green