Should the U.S. have closer military ties with Burma? Some members of Congress think so, and are trying to make it happen. But such a move would be inadvisable.
In a proposed amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which Congress is slated to take up when it returns from recess in September, the Senate signaled support to expand the scale and scope of U.S.-Burma military-to-military ties. Such an expansion is a bad idea on many grounds, not the least of which is Burma’s current ties to North Korea – a regime who’s nuclear and missile programs the Trump administration has made a cornerstone of its foreign policy to counter.
The amendment would further expand the U.S. military’s ties with the Burmese military by providing training in regional and global security issues and anti-trafficking best practices. It would also enable consultation on maritime and peace-keeping operations, among other issues.
Joseph Yun, the U.S. Department of State’s Special Envoy for North Korea, visited Burma late last month to press the Burmese government and military to suspend its ties to North Korea. Burma was one of a handful of priority countries that the Trump administration physically dispatched officials to visit for the express purpose of discussing curtailing ties to Pyongyang.
During his visit to Burma, Yun specifically stated that the U.S. could not fully normalize ties to the Burmese military if it does not discontinue its support for North Korea.
While Burmese military officials deny having any ties beyond “normal relations” with North Korea, publically available evidence suggests otherwise. In fact, Burma has aided North Korea’s missile program developmentand may even house North Korean defense facilities. They also have a shared history of drug trafficking, counterfeiting, and money laundering. Profits from these illicit activities often fill the private coffers of the Kim regime or help fund the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear and missile weapons programs.
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