Myanmar, North, nukes in cables on WikiLeaks

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Myanmar, North, nukes in cables on WikiLeaks

BANGKOK - Washington has suspected for years that Myanmar has a secret nuclear program supported by North Korea, with witnesses reporting suspicious activity as far back as 2004, leaked memos show.

One cable from the U.S. embassy in Yangon, dated August 2004 and released Thursday by the Web site WikiLeaks, quoted an unidentified source as saying he saw about 300 North Koreans working at an underground site.

“The North Koreans, aided by Burmese workers, are constructing a concrete-reinforced underground facility that is ‘500 ft from the top of the cave to the top of the hill above’,” according to the cable.

“The North Koreans are said to be assembling missiles of unknown origin,” it said, adding that the report alone should not have been taken as definitive proof or evidence of sizable North Korean military involvement with the Myanmar regime.

Another memo, also dated 2004, quoted a foreign businessman saying he had seen a reinforced steel bar, larger than for a simple factory project, being unloaded from a barge in the same area in west-central Magway Division.

The cable said the source had volunteered to a U.S. Embassy officer that he had heard rumors that a nuclear reactor was being built near the town of Minbu.

It said that while there was no direct evidence of cooperation between Myanmar’s generals and Pyongyang, there were increasing reports of alleged sightings of North Korean “technicians” in the Southeast Asian nation.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned in July 2009 about possible nuclear links between Myanmar and North Korea, and earlier this year she said a ship from Pyongyang had delivered military equipment to Myanmar.

Myanmar’s junta ?-which recently held a widely criticized election seen as prolonging military rule - has dismissed reports of its nuclear intentions and brushed aside Western concerns about possible cooperation with North Korea.

A UN report released last month alleged North Korea is supplying banned nuclear and ballistic equipment to Myanmar as well as Iran and Syria. And a June documentary by the Norwegian-based news group Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) said Myanmar was trying to develop nuclear weapons, citing a senior army defector and years of “top secret material.”

The DVB documentary gathered thousands of photos and defector testimonies, some regarding Myanmar’s network of secret underground bunkers and tunnels, which were allegedly built with the help of North Korea.

Robert Kelley, a former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) who inspected files smuggled out of Myanmar, said in October evidence indicated “a clandestine nuclear program” was underway. “This is not a well-developed program. I don’t think it’s going very well,” he said at the time.

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