The Next Nuclear Nightmare

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As the U.S. and the international community enact additional sanctions against Iran, another rogue nation’s potential nuclear ambitions are raising increased global concern. For much of the past decade, intelligence officials have been warning that Burma (also referred to as Myanmar) may be actively seeking nuclear capabilities. While this is troubling, equally disturbing is the isolated nation’s entrenched military relationship with North Korea. This kinship, combined with substandard living conditions that the inefficient and secretive Burmese junta has created for its 55 million residents, makes Burma the next big international menace.

Just a few decades ago, according to Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Scot Marciel, Burma was “one of the richest and most open countries” in the world. Today, transparency is alien to Burma’s military government. The nation’s political health has vastly deteriorated, with secrecy preventing outsiders from understanding exactly what is occurring within the regime.  This is creating international angst, as the West cannot properly assess the existence of or the motives behind the alleged nuclear program.

With these questions left unanswered and with a volatile North Korea involved, some wonder if domestic and, perhaps, international safety is at stake. FOX News’ Ed Barnes has been one voice, among many, reporting that Burma may be working in secret to become the world’s next “rogue nuclear power.” While some caution that Burma’s closed nature makes it difficult to assess its nuclear ambitions, others seem certain that the Southeast Asian nation is ramping up its atomic capabilities. According to Barnes,

“Because of the nature of Burma’s paranoid and repressive ruling military junta, there is tremendous fear that, if it acquires a nuclear capability, it will set off an arms race that could change the political dynamics of Southeast Asia.”

Aside from a potential arms race, which would surely be a detriment to international security and would take substantial efforts from world leaders to halt, a nuclear Burma presents other issues of concern.  The Irrawaddy recently reported that some believe Burma’s government is looking to built long-range missiles.  If this is true, these missiles would be within reach of Thailand, among other nearby nations, clearly posing a direct threat to the region.  Additionally, the concern over secrecy and arms sales to terrorists must also be considered, as the reining secrecy in Burma provides no insight into how such a program would be managed.

While many Americans are hearing about these concerns for the first time, experts have been warning about Burmese nuclear ambitions for years. In July 2006, The Australian reported on the nation’s attempt to purchase nuclear technology from North Korea, calling the arrangement “…a frightening new threat to regional security.” According to reports, the U.S. issued warnings to Burma in an effort to show dissatisfaction with the military government’s efforts to engage North Korea. Burma has also sought out Russia to discuss nuclear options, though the Russians allegedly have been unresponsive to these requests; no work has commenced on projects that the two parties agreed to partake in.

While Burma may be seeking nuclear capabilities, some experts have theorized what may be driving the nation’s quest for atomic superiority.  According to analysts and news reports, an unfounded paranoia that the U.S. will attack may be at the center of Burma’s ambitions.  According to a recent Al-Jazeera news documentary, Burma’s military regime has built a countrywide network of underground tunnels.  The documentary reported that North Korea assisted in building these tunnels at an estimated cost of $3 billion and that they are believed to be shelters that would house military members in the event of an attack on the nation.

A Nov. 2007 piece in The Australian quotes Michael Green, a former Bush administration advisor on Asia and Derek Mitchell, the Director for Asia Strategy at The Center for Strategic and International Studies.  Green and Mitchell covered the many issues Burma faces, including human rights violations, poor health care, heroin production, and the spread of HIV/AIDS among the nation’s illegal immigrant population.  Among these issues covered was the “erratic” nature of Burma’s governing regime.  With such constraints on the nation’s internal progress and with a secretive and potentially desperate government at the helm, the thought of a nuclear capable Burma is concerning.

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  • Chezwick_Mac

    Burma is just following the example of North Korea, which benefits mightily from its nuclear program and ballistic missile technology. Because the world's response to North Korea's challenge has been so tepid, the Burmese figure "why the hell not!"

    Of course, that tepidness is mostly the fault of China, a country that continues to run diplomatic interference for the North. Lo and behold, China is also the principle impediment to a successful isolation of Burma. But since China is the country that keeps America afloat due to its purchase of US Treasuries, there is nothing that can be done. The source of the problem is the disastrous trade posture we developed with China over the last two decades, when we 1) encouraged US corporations to invest in China and 2) demanded no reciprocity as year after year, China wracked up massive trade surpluses with us.

    And folks, when Burma finally gets "the bomb", expect it – like North Korea – to start proliferating for handsome profits. It will be the one real commodity Burma has that other parts of the world will covet, and a sure-fire means of enriching the Junta leaders beyond their wildest dreams. It will make today's monopoly they have in lumber and gems seem bush-league by comparison.

  • USMCSniper

    But President Obama promised he would elimnate all the nuclear weapons and we would have one world goverment and we would all live happily ever after with free health care and a home, because "Yes we can!! But bad old Iran and bad old North Korea won't listen.

  • Daniel L.

    Pay now or pay later. The heirs of Western materialism and capitalism, Europe and America, and its allies, can either stop sending their money to those nations that aid and protect rogue states, or prepare to suffer in the near future. That means focusing on trade. China is using its neighbors' militaristic impulses to expand their influence. The way they created a pipeline to Korea for Viet-nam in earlier wars, they are now protecting Burma, N. Korea, and Iran, creating a sure formula for endless warfare. ____Can any of these new rogue nations expect the world to believe they need atom bombs, cruise missiles, submarines, and million-man armies, to protect themselves from invasion? Does N. Korea fear invasion from S. Korea? Burma from Bangladesh? Is Iran threatened by invasion from an emaciated Iraq or Afghanistan? Did Libya need nuclear protection from Algeria? These are all power-addicted militaristic cultures where the people are but pawns to the growth of an imperialist instincts. Everything we buy from those countries, whether off the shelf at Walmart or at the gas pump, are a form of "blood diamonds." Capitalism and materialism can also be used as a weapon through focused denial.

  • Ben Rude Smith

    Some people are retarded—- keep saying over and over about Iran's nuclear weapons.

    Do Israel have nuclear weapons?
    I think they the israel do have nuclear weapons. Israel is a dangerous country because it has nuclear weapons, which it can destroy the whole Middle East. The United States gives yearly 3 billions aid to Israel. And Israel is using the money to build houses in Jerusalem and nuclear weapons. I think Israel don't want a Palestine country. I think Isreal want Palestine to be part of Israel.