Tag Archives: burma

Nuclear Pro-proliferation Friends? Myanmar

A Republican senator is asking Myanmar’s president for answers over the reported seizure of a ship’s cargo bound for Myanmar with potential nuclear uses.   Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported North Korea tried to ship materials suitable for uranium enrichment or missile development to Myanmar via China. It said Japanese authorities seized metal pipes and high-specification aluminum alloy at U.S. request when the ship docked in Tokyo in August.

Sen. Richard Lugar, a leading voice in Congress on nonproliferation, wrote Tuesday to Myanmar’s President Thein Sein, urging him to disclose the intended recipient of the materials and their planned use. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the letter Thursday.  The reported seizure heightens concern over whether Myanmar is making good on promises to sever military ties with North Korea, believed to have assisted Myanmar in ballistic missile technology. Myanmar denies having sought nuclear assistance.

Lugar commended reformist leader Thein Sein for recently agreeing to sign up an international agreement that would allow greater U.N. scrutiny of any nuclear activities.  He said the reported Japanese seizure also provided an opportunity for the Myanmar government to demonstrate transparency.  “Peace and stability within ASEAN are potentially impacted by the intended purpose of the ship’s cargo,” Lugar wrote. ASEAN is Southeast Asia’s regional bloc and Myanmar is a member.  Thein Sein has ushered in democratic reforms after decades of direct military rule, helping end the nation’s international isolation. Earlier this month, Barack Obama became the first U.S. president to visit the country, also known as Burma.

US senator writes Myanmar leader over reported seizure of suspect North Korean cargo, Associated Press, Nov. 30, 2012

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Disaster Dams, China and Myanmar

Opponents of the colossal edifice [of  the Three Gorges dam in China] have been emboldened by rare government admissions of environmental and other “urgent” problems caused by the dam.  In private, officials have worried about the project for some time and occasionally their doubts have surfaced in the official media. But the government itself has refused to acknowledge them. When the project was approved by the rubber-stamp parliament in 1992, debate was stifled by the oppressive political atmosphere of the time, following the Tiananmen Square massacre three years earlier. Last July, with the dam facing its biggest flood crest since completion in 2006, officials hinted that they might have overstated its ability to control flooding. On May 18th, with the dam again in the spotlight because of the drought, a cabinet meeting chaired by the prime minister, Wen Jiabao, went further in acknowledging drawbacks.

Having called the dam “hugely beneficial overall”, the cabinet’s statement said there were problems relating to the resettlement of 1.4m people, to the environment and to the “prevention of geological disasters” that urgently needed addressing. The dam, it said, had had “a certain impact” on navigation, irrigation and water-supply downstream. Some of these problems had been forecast at the design stage or spotted during construction. But they had been “difficult to resolve effectively because of limitations imposed by conditions at the time.” It did not elaborate.

The confession has triggered a flurry of articles in official newspapers about the dam’s deficiencies. Some recalled a warning given by one of China’s most famous critics, Huang Wanli, before his death ten years ago that the dam would silt up the reservoir basin and sooner or later have to be blown up. The Oriental Morning Post even filled its front page with a picture of Mr Huang, who was persecuted by Mao Zedong for his criticism of the Sanmenxia dam on the Yellow River. Sanmenxia was the nation’s pride until its reservoir silted up. On June 7th Shanghai Daily, an English-language paper, called the Three Gorges “that monstrous damming project”.

Its effect on the drought is difficult to prove. Officials deny assertions that the dam and its more than 600-km (370-mile) reservoir might have affected the regional climate. But one official, Wang Jingquan of the Yangzi’s Water Resources Committee, conceded that the dam had lowered water levels in two of the country’s biggest freshwater lakes, making the impact worse. The rapid lowering of the reservoir’s level has also raised fears of landslides and earthquakes. Probe International, a Canadian NGO, published a report on June 1st by Chinese government experts saying the dam had caused “significantly increased” seismic activity.

Excerpt, China and opposition to dams: Choking on the Three Gorges, Economist, June 11, 2011, at 43

The Myitsone hydropower project,-