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by Roland Watson
by Roland Watson

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Published by: Jutta Pflueg on Nov 14, 2009
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14.11.09 16:09Untitled DocumentSeite 1 von 5http://www.dictatorwatch.org/articles/threatassess.html
By Roland Watson November 14, 2009In the last three years, Dictator Watch has published intelligence about Burma's nuclear program from nine different sources.Information from well over ten other sources, including United States, South Korean and Indian intelligence agencies, has also been published by other NGOs and the media. There is a huge amount of intel now in the public domain. This article is an attemptto organize this information in a new manner, to illustrate more clearly what has been revealed - and may reasonably beconjectured - about the SPDC's program to obtain an atomic bomb.That this program is real was underlined by Secretary Clinton's statement last July of U.S. concern "about the transfer of nuclear technology and other dangerous weapons" from North Korea to Burma. It was also affirmed by the recent comment of CaliforniaCongressman Ed Royce, in a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, and questioning the Obama Administration's engagement policy with the SPDC, that the United States has five national security issues with Burma:- North Korea is using Burma to transfer arms and contraband.- Burma is buying technology applicable to a nuclear program.- North Korean arms companies are very active in Burma.- The U.S. blocked a North Korean cargo flight from proceeding from Burma to Iran.- North Korea is helping to construct systems of tunnels in Burma, some of which will be used for nuclear facilities.All of this raises an obvious question: How does one obtain an atomic bomb? What are the different steps in this process, and for each such step what is known about Burma?In summary, a nuclear weapons program consists of the following elements:1. Prospect for commercial grade uranium ore deposits and then mine the ore.2. Mill the ore into a substance known as yellowcake (concentrated uranium powder). This is the first instance in which a securitythreat arises, because yellowcake, although of low radioactivity (emission of gamma particles), can be used by terrorists in a"dirty bomb."3. Enrich the uranium. This involves mixing the yellowcake with fluorine to obtain uranium hexafluoride (this process requires anumber of additional steps), and then melting and pressurizing the result to obtain uranium hexafluoriude gas. The gas issubsequently processed with centrifuges or via diffusion filtration to increase the percentage of the U-235 isotope. At lowconcentrations, the product may be used as reactor fuel (1-2% for heavy water reactors, 3-5% for light water reactors, and 12-20% for research reactors). At high concentrations (85% or more), it is suitable for manufacturing a bomb.This is the second instance in which a threat arises, in this case of the production of an actual atomic weapon. However, one needthousands of centrifuges to obtain enough U-235, and weapons require a number of additional components and steps in their manufacture, including testing.4. Construct a nuclear reactor, using low-enriched uranium as the fuel. Plutonium may be extracted from spent reactor fuel, withheavy water reactors yielding greater quantities. This plutonium can then be used to construct an atomic bomb. Further, there isan additional security risk at this stage, albeit local, of a reactor accident, such as occurred at Chernobyl in the Ukraine and ThreeMile Island in the U.S.5. Develop or acquire weapon delivery systems, such as ballistic or cruise missiles, which may also be used to convey highexplosive and chemical and biological arms.6. For such delivery systems, atomic weapons need to be miniaturized, to meet payload limits.7. Where the technical and production capability is not available locally to complete any of the above steps, secure assistancefrom external parties. It is also conceivable that one could circumvent all of these steps and purchase a functional atomic bombready-made, including potentially of the miniaturized variety.
Uranium ore and mining
That Burma contains deposits of uranium ore is well known, and was even acknowledged by the SPDC itself on a page of itsMinistry of Energy website (this page is now offline), which called for tenders from international mining companies. At least 
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some of these deposits therefore are likely to be commercial. Dictator Watch sources have identified over ten ore deposits. TheKachin News Group in August 2009 revealed that since 2007 Russia has been extracting and shipping high grade raw uranium orefrom mines in the Hpakant area.
Uranium milling and barter
Dictator Watch reported in November 2006 that the SPDC has a uranium mill at Thabeikkyin and that it is bartering yellowcaketo North Korea and Iran. This intelligence was from a source that to our knowledge no one else has published. We subsequentlyreceived confirmation of such milling and barter in early 2007 and also 2008, including from other sources. The BBC's BurmeseService confirmed uranium milling from its own sources in August 2007. Ball and Thornton's "Tin Min" source was quoted in anAsia Times article this past August as saying that Burma businessman Tayza's Htoo Trading Company was involved in arrangingshipments of uranium to North Korea, and he also confirmed Iranian contacts with the SPDC.Dictator Watch further published satellite images of a suspected uranium mine and mill on the Myit Nge River. There are at leasttwo mills currently in operation, and we note that most commercial mines would have associated mills, to reduce ore transportcosts.There is now little doubt that the SPDC is supplying uranium to the secret enrichment programs of both North Korea and Iran.These programs are the two most serious nuclear weapon proliferation threats in the world today, and both nations are the subjectof United Nations Security Council sanctions (North Korea - Resolution 1874, Iran - Resolution 1737), of which the SPDC tradeis a clear violation.Dictator Watch also published in 2007 news that yellowcake had been offered for sale in Bangkok. We now understand that thiswas by at least two sets of Burmese brokers (and which trade may be ongoing), one of which referred to a sixty kilogram supplyat a nearby industrial estate. (Note: This supply was never confirmed, but according to our sources the brokers appearedlegitimate.) For reference, the discovery of five pounds of yellowcake (2.3 kg) in 2003 in Rotterdam (not from Burma) wasinternational news. As noted, uranium is not an ideal substance for a dirty bomb, but even so the psychological effect of such aweapon attack on, say, New York City, Paris or Tokyo, would be incalculable. In the sixty kilogram case the brokers said that thesupply originated from a Wa general. They also said they could provide industrial quantities, but demanded an amount far inexcess of the world uranium price.
Uranium enrichment
We were the first party, in January 2007, to report the possibility of a uranium enrichment program in Burma. Our sourcessubsequently revealed that an enrichment facility is being developed in Thabeikkyin, which is supported by the recent news thatthe SPDC bought equipment that could be used to make centrifuges from a North Korean company through a Japanese trader,who has just been found guilty in a related court case.The SPDC instituting uranium enrichment is an extremely worrying development. However, there is as yet no evidence that thescale of the operation is large enough to produce the quantities of U-235 required for weapons production. It should, though, besubjected to close scrutiny by the IAEA.
Nuclear reactor and plutonium
Russia signed an agreement in 2000 to provide a light water research reactor to the SPDC, which was a duplicate of the first proliferation step taken in 1964 between the Soviet Union and North Korea. The general reactor location was stated as the MagweDivision, and a number of specific prospective or related sites including Myothit, Natmauk, Taungdwingyi and Myaing have beenidentified.The program with Russia was suspended in 2005, when the SPDC experienced financial difficulties. It was resumed in 2007,following the worldwide energy price increases which filled the junta's bank accounts - from sale of natural gas to Thailandthrough the Total-Chevron Yadana pipeline. (Russia is also being paid in mining concessions.) During the suspension period, theSPDC approached North Korea as an alternative supplier. (The Far Eastern Economic Review reported sightings of North Koreantechnicians in the Magwe area in 2003, so some form of cooperation had already been established.) Iran was asked for assistanceas well.An Asia Times article in 2004, derived from Indian Intelligence, said that North Korea was paid $2 million to conduct a reactor survey in Myothit, and that the total assistance program would comprise $200 million over several phases. Dictator Watch sourcessay that the Russian reactor deal was finally concluded, for a used but functional 10 MW reactor, which was to be disassembled,shipped to Burma, and then reassembled, and with startup slated for the end of 2008. Russia would provide the reactor, but NorthKorea would be heavily involved in its construction and operation. (India had also been approached for a reactor, but refused to provide one if its technicians would not be in charge of the operation.) 
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 North Korea began to sell related reactor technology to the SPDC in 2006, which is the same year that it started to receiveyellowcake shipments.It is at this point that the reactor situation for Burma becomes confused. There is no firm evidence that the Russian reactor has been delivered. Moreover, following a strong earthquake in Magwe in September 2003 (reported by Irrawaddy), suspiciondeveloped that the site was moved to the Setkhya Mountains (which are southeast of Mandalay, long-known to have nuclear related facilities, and which lie near the Myit Nge River). Dictator Watch sources say that a reactor is to be built in Kyauk Pa Toetownship of Thabeikkyin, which would complete a vertically-integrated operation there: nearby mines, mill, enrichment facility,and reactor. Ball and Thornton report that there are actually to be two reactors, in Myaing and the Setkhya Mountains. Whatever the site or sites, the program is designed to enable the extraction of plutonium from spent reactor fuel, and the production of sufficient quantities of Plutonium-239 to make atomic weapons.
Nuclear weapons
In 2001, Science and Technology Minister U Thaung said to Burma Army officers who were to be sent to Russia to study nuclear technology that the program's goal was to produce an atomic bomb by 2020. Former Foreign Minister Win Aung, who diedrecently in Insein Prison, said to such State Scholars at this time that China supported the objective.This time frame is reasonable for a weapons program based on enriched uranium, provided the SPDC can acquire or manufactureenough centrifuges. Ball and Thornton argue that via the reactor-based plutonium extraction method, the SPDC may be able to build a bomb by 2014. It is also important to recall the option of outright weapon acquisition. Than Shwe is constructing a defenseagainst a foreign military intervention, of which having nuclear arms would be the bulwark. It seems unlikely, considering how -thanks to Total, Chevron and other multi-national corporations - his financial fortunes have improved, that he would not attemptto purchase one directly from North Korea. Of course, he would pursue both uranium enrichment and plutonium extraction programs, in emulation of the North, but as these take years he would inevitably be attracted by a straightforward purchase. (Thisis also one way that the North could make up for assassinating South Korean officials in Rangoon in 1983.)Than Shwe has the ability to pay whatever Kim Jong-il might demand, even hundreds of millions of dollars for a single weapon,if need be. (He is so wealthy now that he has constructed an imperial city.) Note: Such acts do happen. The Washington Post just reported that China in 1982 gave Pakistan enough enriched uranium (50kilograms), and a basic blueprint, to construct two atomic bombs. The U.S. became aware of, but never disclosed, this transfer.
Dictator Watch has reported a great amount of intelligence about the SPDC's efforts both to acquire and produce a wide variety of missile systems, including land and ship based, SAM, TOW, rockets, and ballistic missiles. The most worrisome of our intelligence is that the SPDC has purchased short range ballistic missiles (SRBM) from North Korea, with a range of 300 miles,and that these have been placed at at least four locations near Burma's border with Thailand. We also reported that both Russiaand North Korea are helping the SPDC build factories to produce rockets and other precision-guided munitions.Missile proliferation to Burma is now well-documented. Kyodo News reported in 2003, from a U.S. intelligence source, thatBurma was negotiating to buy North Korean missiles. The Congressional Research Service reported in 2006 the sale of ballisticmissiles by North Korea to other countries, although Burma was not mentioned. More recently, the evidence includes the UnitedStates efforts in the summer of 2008 (noted by Congressman Royce) to deny a North Korean cargo flight airspace rights over India to fly from Burma to Iran, and which cargo reportedly included missile components; and the U.S. shadowing of the Kang Nam 1 freighter this past summer, which had a similar cargo.On the other hand, even though the SPDC has acquired sophisticated missile systems, it is unlikely to possess the miniaturizationtechnology necessary to scale down nuclear weapons to the requisite size. Only China, which has developed the technologydomestically, and which also secured designs from the U.S. through espionage (the W-88 design), would be in a position totransfer the technology to Burma, and also North Korea, but in the present day would be unlikely to do so to either. (Russia aswell can almost certainly be ruled out as a source of the technology.) The only rationale for having such missile systems,therefore, defaults to their use as part of a defense against a foreign intervention.(One wild card, though, is the presence of Pakistani nuclear scientists Muhammad Ali Mukhtar and Suleiman Asad in Burmasince 2001, escapees of the A. Q. Khan network. (Khan was the individual who received the earlier mentioned Chinese enricheduranium.) Both scientists are weapons design experts, and were connected to the charity UTN, other Pakistani scientists fromwhich the CIA learned briefed Osama bin Laden - in mid-2001 - on how to make nuclear weapons. Source - Deception: Pakistan,the United States, and the Secret Trade in Nuclear Weapons, by Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, via the HistoryCommons website)
SPDC defense plans

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