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If this sounds similar to another Asian pariah state, it should; Burma is trying to follow the North Korean model, according to Khin Maung Win. Than Shwe reportedly admires Kim Jong Il for standing up to the international community, and ever since the countries formalized relations in 2007, the two states have deepened their military connections, say DVB sources. Relations between the two countries, however, have not always been so amicable. In 1983, North Korean operatives attempted to assassinate the South Korean President in a Rangoon bomb attack that killed 21, and Burma severed official diplomatic relations for more than two decades. Recently, though, the countries seem to have bonded as joint pariah states, with the junta's No. 3 general, Shwe Mann, visiting North Korea in 2008. Nowadays, Khin Maung Win says there are North Korean military experts who sneak into Burma through China and act as advisers to key parts of Burma's defense industry.
There is no evidence that the North Koreans are directly helping with Burma's alleged nuclear weapons program, but analysts worry this might not always be the case. Burma has cash, and North Korea needs it desperately. Defectors say Burma wants a bomb; U.S. intelligence says North Korea already tried helping build a nuclear reactor for Syria before Israel bombed it. "A couple years ago, I would've pooh-poohed the whole thing," says Turnell of Burma's nuclear weapons program. But now, he says, "The whole story is a perfect fit."