The United States Thursday called on Myanmar to abide by an arms embargo and other U.N. sanctions imposed on North Korea for its nuclear and missile test last year.
The remarks by State Department spokesman Philip Crowley came as North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun arrived in Yangon, Myanmar, earlier in the day for a four-day trip.
“We have concerns about the nature of the relationship between North Korea and Burma,” Crowley said. “We don’t see the transparency in that relationship that we’d like to see. North Korea is a serial proliferator. North Korea is engaged in significant illicit activity.
Burma, like other countries around the world, has obligations, and we expect Burma to live up to those obligations.” Arms sales are one of the major sources of revenue for North Korea, suspected of being behind nuclear and missile proliferation in Syria, Iran, Pakistan and several other countries.
Last June, a North Korean cargo ship, possibly on its way to Myanmar, returned home after being closely tracked by U.S. Navy vessels.
Israel said in May that the 35 tons of North Korean arms seized at the Bangkok airport in December were destined for the Hamas and Hizbullah militant groups via Syria.
Dennis Blair, then U.S. director of national intelligence, has said the cargo was bound for the Middle East, without elaborating.
A pay-off years ago by Israel reportedly failed to persuade North Korea to stop shipping weapons to the Middle East.
The United Arab Emirates last July seized a Bahamian-flagged ship carrying North Korean rocket-propelled grenades and other conventional weapons labeled as machine parts, the first seizure under Security Council Resolution 1874, adopted a month earlier after North Korea’s nuclear test in May.
India seized a North Korean ship off its coast last August but found no weapons aboard.
“It’s difficult to evaluate because of the lack of transparency in that relationship,” Crowley said. “It is something that is of concern to us, given North Korea’s historical record. And it is something that we continue to watch very carefully.” The spokesman was echoeing U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remarks in Hanoi, Vietnam, last week that expressed concerns about North Korea’s alleged proliferation of nuclear technology to Myanmar.
“I’ve also shared with the minister our concerns about the exporting by North Korea of military materiel and equipment to Burma,” Clinton said. “We know that a ship from North Korea recently delivered military equipment to Burma and we continue to be concerned by the reports that Burma may be seeking assistance from North Korea with regard to a nuclear program.”