WikiLeaks Cable Describes North Korea-Burma Arms Trade

Posted September 5th, 2011 at 2:50 am (UTC-5)
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A leaked U.S. diplomatic cable says Burma shipped thousands of tons of rice to North Korea in exchange for arms.

The cable was sent in July 2009 from the U.S. embassy in Rangoon and just released by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. It says Burma shipped about 20,000 tons of rice to North Korea through the first six months of that year in exchange for conventional arms.

The cable also quotes a well-placed business source saying the shipments had gone on for more than five years. North Korea suffers from chronic food shortages but has a sophisticated arms industry.

U.S. officials have long suspected North Korea may also be helping Burma to develop a nuclear weapons capability, though Burma denies it.

Burma's long-ruling military junta stepped down at the end of March, turning over power to a new government that was chosen in tainted elections late last year. The new administration, led mainly by retired generals, has taken modest steps to open talks with some of its critics.