Burma and Nuclear Proliferation

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Selth, Andrew
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James J. Wirtz and Peter R. Lavoy
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2012
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Abstract

Before 2000, the idea that Burma might become a nuclear power was considered fanciful. Indeed, it was seen as so unlikely that major military institutions in two Western countries used such a scenario as the basis for classroom training exercises. These institutions asked their students to consider what would happen if Burma, supplied with nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles by another pariah state, precipitated an international crisis. In one case, the threat was immediate, with the notional nuclear-armed missiles aimed at a neighboring country allied with the United States. In the other case, the threat was less direct, and formed the basis of an attempt by Burma's military government to exercise leverage over other countries, mainly through the United Nations. After 2000, these fictional scenarios seemed to be coming true. That year, Burma announced that it planned to purchase a nuclear reactor from Russia. Given Burma's political instability and low level of technical development, this was itself a cause for concern. When the Russian deal appeared to break down in 2003, there were fears that Burma had turned to North Korea to acquire nuclear technology, and possibly nuclear weapons. There was also speculation that even if Burma did not want its own nuclear weapons, it could be enlisted to support North Korea's nuclear program and perhaps even to hide a few North Korean weapons from the United States and international monitoring agencies. These stories, which were given wide circulation in the news media, followed reports that Rangoon was trying to purchase ballistic missiles from Pyongyang.

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Over the Horizon Proliferation Threats
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International Relations
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