Myanmar pressured over North Korean ties

Aug. 29, 2013 at 12:39 PM

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei, Aug. 29 (UPI) -- The U.S. military recognizes Myanmar's efforts to pursue reforms but has concerns about its ties to North Korea, the Defense Department said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met with Myanmar's Defense Minister Lt. Gen. Wai Lwin on the sidelines of a defense meeting in Brunei.

Defense Department spokesman George Little said the Pentagon was supportive of Myanmar's upcoming role as the chair of Association of Southeast Asian Nations. He said Hagel lauded overall gains made since general elections ended military rule in 2010.

"The secretary discussed the importance of continued progress on reform and the importance of Myanmar severing military ties to North Korea," the spokesman said in a statement Thursday.

Western allies are assessing security concerns on the Korean Peninsula alongside their regional partners. North Korea tested a nuclear device this year, its third. Myanmar, meanwhile, has been encouraged to address lingering national security concerns of its own.

U.S. Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen last month announced sanctions on Lt. Gen. Thein Htay, head of Myanmar's Directorate of Defense Industries, for his ties to the North Korean military.

"Thein Htay has disregarded international requirements to stop purchasing military goods from North Korea, the revenues from which directly support North Korea's illicit activities," Cohen said.

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