Burma: US envoy makes visit, govt insists no links with North Korea
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Burma: US envoy makes visit, govt insists no links with North Korea

Burma (Myanmar) has no military ties with North Korea, a Burma official said on Monday, as a United States diplomat responsible for North Korea arrived for talks in which he is likely to seek assurances on efforts to isolate it.

Ambassador Joseph Yun was set to meet Burma‘s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and the military’s commander in chief in the capital, Naypyitaw, on Monday, according to the US Embassy in Yangon.

Yun attended a conference in Singapore over the weekend focusing on tension on the Korean peninsula over the North’s unrelenting nuclear and missile programmes.

SEE ALSO: UN Security Council members unanimously condemn North Korea missile test

Yun’s trip to Asia was announced after North Korea’s test on July 4 of an intercontinental ballistic missile it says can carry a large nuclear warhead. Some experts believe it has the range to reach Alaska.

Burma is the only other stop on his trip, pointing to concern in Washington Burma’s army, which used to have ties with North Korea, continues to give succour to Kim Jong Un’s regime.

The US did not inform Burma what Yun would discuss, said Kyaw Zeya, permanent secretary at Burma‘s Foreign Affairs Ministry

Kyaw Zeya told Reuters:

“They are not very specific from the very beginning, but we understand he is the special envoy on North Korea.”

Burma was complying with United Nations resolutions on North Korea, he said.

“It’s normal relations between the two countries,” Kyaw Zeya said. “As I understand, there’s no such relations between military to military. Definitely not.”

The US in May asked Southeast Asian countries to do more to isolate North Korea and efforts have increased after its July 4 ballistic missile test.

Burma’s former ruling junta, which, like North Korea, was also widely shunned by the outside world over its suppression of human rights, was known to have ties to North Korea, which included sending missile experts and material for arms production to Burma.

SEE ALSO: Burma must ‘fully cooperate’ in UN inquiry on crimes against Rohingya – US

Burma insists arms deals and other military relations with North Korea stopped before its transition to a nominally civilian government in 2011.

Nobel laureate Suu Kyi took power last year amid a transition from full military rule. But the military could still have “a few residual pockets” with links to North Korea, then-top US diplomat for East Asia Daniel Russel told a congressional hearing in September.

In March, the US Treasury levelled new sanctions against Burma army’s procurement body, the Directorate of Defence Industries (DDI), under the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act Sanctions.

suu-kyi-obama-meet

Obama and Suu Kyi shake hands as they speak to media at the conclusion of a meeting in Washington on Sept 14, 2016. Source: AP

The DDI was previously sanctioned in 2012 and accused of materially assisting North Korea’s regime, but had fallen off the sanctions list in October after the Obama administration dropped most measures against Burma in recognition of a successful political transition.

But despite Suu Kyi leading the civilian administration, Burma’‘s military remains free from civilian oversight.

A 2008 constitution drafted by then-ruling generals kept the army central to politics.

SEE ALSO: At peace summit, Burma’s armed rebel groups call for equality

In May 2014, experts analysing satellite imagery of military facilities in central Burma identified a site where North Korea was helping Burma with production of surface-to-air missiles.

The paper by Catherine Dill and Jeffrey Lewis of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California, said the site near the town of Minbu was staffed by up to 300 North Koreans. – Reuters