Experts see indications of possible North Korean activity at a mysterious military site in Myanmar that, by some accounts, may be linked to chemical arms.
The Burmese government last week sentenced five local journalists to a decade of hard labor after they were declared guilty of airing state secrets with their early 2014 report about a secret military facility in the central Magwe region. The investigative report in the now-defunct Unity journal said the complex was manufacturing chemical-warfare materials.
While expert opinion is divided about whether the plant is producing chemical weapons, some specialists believe it likely that North Korea is involved in some capacity, the Bangkok Post reported on Sunday.
“It’s not a chemical weapons factory, but reportedly a factory where they produce aluminum casing for missiles, and ‘the Chinese technicians’ they mention in the [Unity] article are most likely North Koreans,” said longtime journalist Bertil Lintner, who has reported extensively on North Korea.
Jeffrey Lewis, an East Asia nonproliferation expert who has co-written about the chemical weapon possibilities of the military site, told the Post he was particularly intrigued by detected evidence of foreign workers. “[The Burmese Directorate of Defense Industries] has been sanctioned for dealing with North Korea, and this site appears similar to another location near Minbu where North Koreans are believed to live and work,” Lewis said.
“Working from satellite images, it would appear that DDI’s activities are expanding, not contracting, despite promises to stop any illicit programs and cooperation with North Korea,” said Lewis, who directs the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies’ East Asia Nonproliferation Program.
Dan Kaszeta, a former U.S. Army chemical weapons officer, said if Myanmar were producing chemical arms, it likely would have a developed a testing and training program for their use — something not yet in evidence.
“A strong indicator is some kind of testing regime to see if weapons actually work,” Kaszeta said. “It seems unlikely that a country would go to the massive effort of making chemical weapons without seeing whether their chosen delivery mechanisms work.”
Myanmar has signed but not yet ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention.
What We're Following See More »
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.