Why Myanmar, North Korea are keeping their own time

The US has for decades lumped North Korea and Myanmar together as East Asian foreign policy problems. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice specifically underscored that connection when she included both North Korea and Myanmar -- formerly known as Burma -- as "outposts of tyranny" in her Senate confirmation hearings.

Whatever the criteria, the two have indeed enjoyed a relationship of sorts, beginning with diplomatic relations and later through the Non-Aligned Movement. In 1983, however, relations changed: North Korea attempted to assassinate South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan during a visit to Myanmar that year, killing 17 South Korean officials, including several cabinet ministers.

This violated General Ne Win's personal hospitality, and Myanmar subsequently "derecognized" the North as a result of the attack. Gradually, however, relations improved once again, with explicit South Korean approval in the final stages of Seoul's "sunshine policy" toward the North.

Myanmar's commander-in-chief secretly visited North Korea in 2008, although the two nations were more open about regular high-level exchanges, and Pyongyang at one point even helped Myanmar's former military regime dig defence tunnels in the new capital, Naypyitaw. In addition, Pyongyang has sold arms and missiles to Myanmar. There were even unconfirmed rumours of a nuclear relationship.

There have been pointed comments about the relationship. South Korean President Park Geun-hye, for example, has said she wants North Korea to copy the economic system of South Korea, but undertake political reforms like Myanmar.

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