U.S. says Myanmar "on right track" over North Korea arms ties

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BEIJING (Reuters) - The United States believes that Myanmar is on the right track towards giving up its remaining military ties with North Korea but recognizes it will take time, the U.S. envoy for the North Korean nuclear dispute said on Monday.

U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Glyn Davies told reporters in Beijing that Washington continued to be worried about that relationship and it was an issue raised with their counterparts in the former Burma.

“I think that Burma’s on the right path, that they have made a strategic decision to fundamentally alter their relationship with the DPRK and to ultimately end these relationships with North Korea,” Davies said, using the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“But it’s a work in process. It was a long relationship that the two countries had and so it does take some time to work through it.”

Myanmar began sweeping reforms last year as it emerges from decades of isolation and military rule, freeing political prisoners, holding elections and normalizing relations with the United States which has moved to lift sanctions.

The Southeast Asian country’s defense minister said in June that Myanmar had abandoned research on a nuclear program that never progressed very far and had stepped back from close military and political ties with North Korea.

News reports two years ago indicated Myanmar had obtained technology for enriching uranium from North Korea along with parts for a nuclear weapons program.

A U.N. panel that monitors compliance with sanctions on North Korea has also investigated reports of possible weapons-related deals between Pyongyang and Syria and Myanmar.

North Korea remains under heavy U.N. sanctions for its nuclear program that have cut off its previously lucrative arms trade and further isolated the state after its failed 2009 missile test drew sharp rebukes, even from its one major ally, China.

Reporting by Terril Yue Jones; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie