Junta ambassador asks China to share advanced nuclear technology

Suspicions linger over the Myanmar regime’s ambitions to acquire nuclear weapons.

Junta ambassador asks China to share advanced nuclear technology

The Myanmar junta’s ambassador to Beijing asked Chinese officials at a weekend ASEAN forum to share advanced nuclear technology, according to a statement from the junta’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The technology would be used to help Myanmar’s agriculture, health and energy sectors, the ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

The ambassador, Tin Maung Swe, made the request on Saturday at the China-ASEAN Forum for Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Technology in Nanning, China.

But political analyst Than Soe Naing said the junta is also trying to achieve its dream of owning nuclear weapons.

“They must be trying to get nuclear weapons, now that Myanmar is helpless and doesn’t have international leverage,” he told Radio Free Asia. “Therefore, they are looking for a way to own nuclear power under the pretext of the peaceful use of nuclear energy as a first step.”

The junta announced on Sept. 11 that it had re-established relations with North Korea – one of the few countries in the world that possess nuclear weapons – and was appointing Tin Maung Swe to also serve as envoy to Pyongyang. 

Representatives of ASEAN and China clap as they pose for a group photo during ASEAN-China forum on peaceful application of nuclear technology in Nanning, China, on Sept. 16. Credit: Myanmar Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Myanmar’s civilian government cut ties with North Korea five years ago, citing U.N. sanctions over the North’s nuclear weapons program. The junta took power from the civilian government in a coup d’etat on Feb. 1, 2021. 

In September 2022, the junta signed an agreement with Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation to jointly assess building a small reactor in Myanmar. 

The junta announced at the time that it would use nuclear energy for civilian purposes, but Myanmar’s political opposition and military analysts expressed concern that the technology would be leveraged militarily, given the country’s ongoing internal armed conflict and widespread popular opposition to the junta following the coup.

In February, the junta established a “Nuclear Technology and Information Center,” in cooperation with Russian energy firm Rosatom State Corp., in Myanmar’s commercial capital Yangon. That announcement came amid enduring suspicions that the military regime has ambitions to acquire nuclear weapons.

Translated by Myo Min Aung. Edited by Matt Reed.