Business, Economics and Jobs

Muted nuclear ambitions in Myanmar


Demonstrators in Myanmar walk with lit candles in a protest against severe power cuts in Yangon on May 23, 2012.



Not so long ago, American officials openly fretted over the possibility that Myanmar -- then an outright U.S. foe -- was actively seeking nuclear weapons.

So it's remarkable that a recent public declaration of nuclear ambitions by a Myanmar official came and went with little fanfare last week.

In 2009, in my piece "Fears of a Nuclear Burma," I summarized the evidence that Myanmar (formerly titled Burma) was seeking a nuke: military ties to North Korea, a mysterious underground facility and a paranoid, ostracized government.

One of the more welcome outcomes of U.S. engagement in Myanmar, from a global security perspective, is the fact that Myanmar's designs on nukes appear to be totally stalled. As the State Department cozied up to Myanmar, the government's North Korea friendship has withered.

Now, as the Associated Press reports, Myanmar's military chief is talking about nuclear technology in public. But he's insisting that any and all nuclear developments in the impoverished nation will revolve around health care (think radiation treatment) and energy. Not bombs.

That's not all that different than the line Iran espouses publicly.

Nor is it all that different from the line towed by Myanmar during the 2009 spell when the State Department feared the nation was close to acquiring nuclear material.

The difference? U.S. officials now appear to be taking their word for it.