The Burmese diaspora has become one of our best sources of information:
One of the first signs of warming relations was a barter agreement between the two countries that lasted from 2000 to 2006 and saw Burma receive between 12 and 16 M-46 field guns and as many as 20 million rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition from North Korea, according to defense analyst Andrew Selth of Griffith University in Australia. In exchange, Burma bartered food and rice. [….]
The two countries formally re-established diplomatic relations in April 2007. After that, the North Korean ship the Kang Nam — the same ship that recently turned away from Burma after being followed by the U.S. navy — made a trip to Burma’s Thilawa port. Western defense analysts concluded that the ship carried conventional weapons and missiles to Burma.
This laid the ground for the MoU signed in November, when Shwe Mann, the regime’s third-most powerful figure, made a secret visit to North Korea, according to the leaked report. Shwe Mann is the chief of staff of the army, navy and air force, and the coordinator of Special Operations. He spent seven days in Pyongyang, traveling via China. His 17-member delegation received a tour around Pyongyang and Myohyang, where secret tunnels have been built into mountains to shelter aircraft, missiles, tanks and nuclear and chemical weapons. [Aung Zaw, WSJ]
Aung Zaw is the founder of The Irrawaddy, which has a regular feature that tracks the Burma-North Korea proliferation story closely. The entire WSJ piece is well worth reading. More on those Burmese tunnels here, and on military cooperation between Burma and North Korea here.
Related: There’s video of the 1983 Rangoon bombing up on YouTube. It may seem a frivolous thing to say in this context, but I thought the scenes of Seoul in the 80’s were an interesting contrast. It’s amazing how much things changed in just 15 years, when I first arrived there.