Thursday, December 2, 2010
By BA KAUNG
Burma, along with Laos and Cambodia, might be working for Beijing as spies within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), according to a US cable leak attributed to Singapore's Minister Mentor, Lee Kuan Yew.
“Within hours, everything that is discussed in Asean meetings is known in Beijing, given China's close ties with Laos, Cambodia, and Burma,” a secret cable stated, quoting Lee Kuan Yew in a conversation with US Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg on May 30, 2009.
According to a leaked text posted on the Wikileaks website, the cable was sent from the US Charge d’Affaires in Singapore, Daniel L. Shields, to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in June. The conversation, which was aimed at “eliciting MM Lee’s views on China and North Korea,” took place in Singapore's Presidential Palace.
Lee Kuan Yew was also quoted as saying in the same conversation that “Beijing is worried about its dependence on the Strait of Malacca and is moving to ease the dependence by means like a pipeline through Burma,” referring to China's major oil pipeline construction from Burma's Arakan coast to China's Yunnan province.
As China's strategic ally, Burma often seeks China's support in the United Nations whenever its human rights record is raised. And China is widely assumed to wield influence on the Burmese regime.
The leaked cable also referred to an earlier discussion between MM Lee and China's Deputy Chief of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) General Staff, Ma Xiaotian. Lee was quoted as recalling that when he asked Ma Xiaotian what China could do about North Korea, the Chinese official replied: “they [North Korea] can survive on their own.”
“MM Lee said he interpreted this as meaning that even if China cut off aid, the DPRK (North Korea) leadership would survive. This is a leadership that has already taken actions like killing ROK (South Korean) Cabinet Members in Burma,” the cable stated, referring to an incident in which North Korean commandos attempted to assassinate South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan during an official visit he made to Rangoon in October 1983.
The attempt to kill the South Korean president with a bomb was widely believed to have been masterminded by North Korean leader Kim Jong II before he succeeded his father Kim II Sung.
Among the hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables leaked by the Wikileaks website, there is little mention of Burmese issues. But in its website, it stated that there are over 3,000 records related to Burma. The documents remain inaccessible to the public but are expected to be released soon.
While the Wikileaks website lists US embassies around the world as sources for much of leaked information, the US Embassy in Rangoon is not included.
In another leaked memo released on Nov. 28 but dated July 31 2009 with its original source being US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Burma was mentioned as one of the priority issues in US foreign policy.
The memo mentioned a request for reporting of biographic information relating to the United Nations, including information about “credit card account numbers; frequent flyer account numbers; and work schedules.”
Regarding Burma, the memo asked for information on “Views of UNSC (United Nations Security Council) and member states on Burma” and also plans and intentions of the UN Secretary General on Burma and level of trust in his Special Adviser, who was then Nigerian national Ibraham Gambari. Also, views were sought from Burmese officials on the UN Chief and his special adviser; the development and democratization activities of UNDP in Burma; and details of the UNDP Resident Coordinator's relationship with Burmese officials.