Burma and Nuclear Weapons

News broke today of a new report detailing Burma's potential nuclear weapons ambitions.  The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Associated Press, and Financial Times covered the story.  

The report, commissioned by the expatriate group Democratic Voice of Burma and co-authored by former UN weapons inspector Robert Kelley, shows that Burma has taken steps to acquire technological components of nuclear weapons.  Information in the report was provided by a defected Burmese military official, who had hundreds of documents and photos detailing Burma's progress.

No news outlet's analysis, however, was as technical and detailed as Geoffrey Forden's in Arms Control Wonk.  Arms Control Wonk is a Ploughshares Fund grantee and is a reliable source for explaining the implications of all the latest nuclear policy news, often from an inside perspective.

Geoffrey Forden's post on the possible Burmese nuclear weapons program says:

  • Last January, I was invited to join a group of experts in Oslo, Norway, to review a ton of electronic documents smuggled out of Burma to the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB).
  • We spent a significant fraction of our time in Oslo trying to authenticate the information and judging its significance. Since very little is known about what’s going on inside Burma, most of this consisted of looking for internal consistency.
  • According to DVB’s source(s), both “Boxes” (suspect sites) are essentially the same: loaded with sophisticated milling machine and other equipment for precision engineering. Some of these images show non-Asians installing some of the sophisticated equipment.
  • One is left with the impression that the higher-ups are interested in utilizing their foreign trained scientists and engineers for missile production but do not have a master plan for development.
  • Burma also appears to be following another acquisition path: purchasing missile production lines and know-how from the North Koreans.
  • According to DVB’s sources, North Korea had nothing to do with setting up the two machine shops inside the Boxes.
  • Missile development is not causing as much harm to the Burmese people as many of the other activities of the Junta. Nevertheless, it is part of a military program that shows a remarkable disregard for the Burmese people.