WASHINGTON: Burma has begun secretly acquiring key components for a nuclear weapons program, including specialised equipment used to make uranium metal for nuclear bombs, according to a report that cites documents and photos from a Burmese army officer who recently fled the country.The smuggled evidence shows Burma’s military rulers taking concrete steps towards obtaining atomic weapons, according to an analysis co-written by an independent nuclear expert. But it also points to enormous gaps in their technical knowledge and suggests that the country is many years from developing an actual bomb.The analysis, commissioned by the dissident group Democratic Voice of Burma, concludes with ”high confidence” that Burma is seeking nuclear technology, and adds: ”This technology is only for nuclear weapons and not for civilian use or nuclear power.”The intent is clear, and that is a very disturbing matter for international agreements,” said the report, co-authored by Robert Kelley, a retired senior United Nations nuclear inspector.Hours before the report’s release, a US senator announced that he was cancelling a trip to Burma to await the details.”It is unclear whether these allegations have substantive merit,” said Senator James Webb, who chairs a Senate foreign relations panel on east Asia.”[But] until there is further clarification on these matters, I believe it would be unwise and potentially counterproductive for me to visit.”Last August the Herald reported that Burma was building a secret nuclear reactor and plutonium extraction facilities with North Korean help, based on evidence from defectors.The new analysis is based on documents and hundreds of photos smuggled out of the country by Sai Thein Win, a Burmese major who says he visited key installations and attended meetings at which the new technology was demonstrated.Among the images provided were technical drawings of a device known as a bomb-reduction vessel, which is chiefly used in the making of uranium metal for fuel rods and nuclear-weapons components. The defector also released a document purporting to show a government official ordering production of the device, as well as photos of the finished vessel.The Washington Post
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