SIEM REAP, Cambodia (Reuters) - Japan said on Saturday it had been assured by military-ruled Myanmar that it was not developing nuclear weapons even though it was working with Russia on a nuclear energy program.
Myanmar has remained tight-lipped about its nuclear plans, despite speculation it has been receiving help from North Korea to build nuclear facilities near its remote capital with the intent of developing a weapon.
Myanmar’s Foreign Minister Nyan Win told his Japanese counterpart Katsuya Okada that his country was seeking Russia’s expertise, but only in developing a peaceful energy program for its people.
“(Nyan Win) told Japan’s foreign minister that Myanmar has no intention to have a nuclear weapon,” Japan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Kazuo Kodama told reporters on the sidelines of a Mekong-Japan ministerial meeting in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
“Myanmar has conducted a consultation to have assistance from Russia for a peaceful use of nuclear energy.”
Kazuo did not say if the issue of any nuclear links with North Korea was discussed.
Academic researchers said in August Myanmar was building a secret nuclear reactor and plutonium facility in caves tunneled into a mountain, citing intelligence from two defectors.
The defectors also said Myanmar, which has known reserves of uranium ore, had provided refined “yellowcake” processed uranium that can be used as nuclear fuel to Iran and North Korea.
The isolated country has been under Western sanctions for two decades and analysts say a nuclearized Myanmar could trigger an arms race in the region.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at a security forum in Thailand in July that she was concerned about the possible transfer of nuclear technology to Myanmar from North Korea.
In reference to ties between North Korea and Myanmar, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, the top U.S. diplomat for Asia, said there were “some signs that that cooperation has extended into areas that would be prohibited.
However, many analysts have said evidence of attempts to develop nuclear weapons is scant and have questioned the reliability of the defectors’ information.
Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Alison Williams
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