Monday, Dec. 20, 2010
The International Atomic Energy Agency has in the last few weeks pressed Myanmar to grant inspectors access to facilities said to have links to an undisclosed nuclear program, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday (seeGSN, Dec. 17)
“(The IAEA) is now officially asking for a visit,” said one official with knowledge of a letter sent by the IAEA Safeguards Department to the ruling military junta in Myanmar. The Vienna-based agency had in previous months sought details from the Southeast Asian nation on its purported atomic development efforts.
The U.N. nuclear watchdog issued its latest request on the heels of heightened concerns shared by Washington and Asian governments of stepped-up military collaboration between Myanmar and North Korea (see related GSN story, today). Joint cooperation could include work on atomic projects as well as the development of hardened bunkers and extended-range missiles.
Myanmar could face a tough international reaction if it rejects the IAEA request for audits of the purported nuclear sites, according the the Journal. Still, officials and experts have expressed uncertainty over the country’s atomic intentions.
“Something is certainly happening; whether that something includes ‘nukes’ is a very open question which remains a very high priority for embassy reporting,” the senior U.S. diplomat in Yangon wrote in a November 2009 dispatch.
A large portion of the equipment said to have been sought by Myanmar has non-nuclear uses, and defectors might have exaggerated the nation’s nuclear ambitions for political reasons, proliferation analysts and former IAEA staffers said.
“North Korea has been trying to sell missiles to Myanmar for some years … but there’s no clear evidence of a nuclear program,” former State Department nonproliferation official Mark Fitzpatrick said. Fitzpatrick and other specialists have still called for extensive audits in Myanmar over the country’s alleged atomic activities (Jay Solomon, Wall Street Journal, Dec. 17).