US Senator Jim Webb on Thursday cancelled a planned trip to Myanmar because of new allegations that the regime is working with North Korea to develop a nuclear programme.
Mr. Webb, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on East Asia and Pacific Affairs, had originally planned to visit Myanmar on Thursday to Saturday for scheduled talks with Prime Minister Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The cancellation was announced by the US embassy in Bangkok, where Mr. Webb was visiting before travelling to Myanmar, also known as Burma. “News reports published today contain new allegations regarding the possibility that the Burmese government has been working in conjunction with North Korea in order to develop a nuclear programme,” a statement released by Mr. Webb said.
Charge against Myanmar
Information obtained by the AlJazeera news network reveal Myanmar’s plains to become the next nuclear—armed North Korea, Mr. Webb told a Bangkok press conference. A recent defector from the Myanmar military, identified as Major Sai Thein Win, reportedly claimed direct knowledge of such plans and furnished documents to corroborate his claims, AlJazeera said.
There have been similar past reports of Myanmar—North Korean collaboration in nuclear programmes, but they have not been verified. “It is unclear whether these allegations have substantive merit,” Mr. Webb said. “However, given the fact that Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell recently accused Burma of violating UN Security Council Resolution 1874 with respect to a suspected shipment of arms from North Korea, there are now two unresolved matters related to activities of serious concern between these two countries.” “Until there is further clarification on these matters, I believe it would be unwise and potentially counterproductive for me to visit Burma,” he said. Mr. Webb is a strong advocate of pursuing a dialogue with both Myanmar and North Korea, deemed ‘undesirable’ states by most democracies for their poor human rights records and refusal to institute democratic reforms.
Mr. Webb was scheduled to meet with detained Nobel Peace Prize laureate Suu Kyi on Saturday in Yangon but had reportedly been denied a meeting with junta chief Than Shwe.
Before travelling to Thailand, Mr. Webb visited South Korea and discussed the rising tension on the Korean Peninsula. He urged China to take a more active stance regarding Pyongyang. “There is an obligation for the Chinese government to step forward and become more involved in a number of issues, including North Korea and Burma,” he said.