South Korea Says Myanmar To End North Korean Arms Deals

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By Staff Reporter | May 16, 2012 2:18 AM EST

Myanmar has promised to stop buying weapons from North Korea, ending 20 years of military cooperation and taking a further step toward reform.

On Tuesday, President Thein Sein told South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak, who is in Myanmar (aka Burma) for a two-day visit, that his country would adhere to United Nations Security Council resolutions on North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, according to the Associated Press.

Over the past year, Myanmar, which has long been ruled by a military junta, has been taking steps toward democracy. A new civilian government, as well as some political reforms, has prompted a number of world leaders to visit the country in recent months, a sign that Myanmar's international isolation may be coming to an end.

Lee's trip was especially significant because it was the first from a South Korean leader since 1983, when North Korean soldiers tried to assassinate then-President Chun Doo-hwan in Rangoon (Yangon). A total of 21 people died in the attack, most of them South Korean.

Myanmar cut off diplomatic relations with North Korea after the incident but restored them in 2007. Thein Sein conceded to Lee that his country's government has had arms contracts with South Korea's enemy for two decades.

Lee told Thein Sein that he formally requested Myanmar to "refrain from any activities" with North Korea in the future. In exchange, South Korea will increase its financial and humanitarian aid to Myanmar.

According to the Korea Times, as part of the effort to distance itself from Pyongyang, Myanmar will also release a North Korean defector who has been detained since 2010 for an illegal border crossing. The unidentified man will be freed this week and will go to South Korea.

"We have to make sure that we do not dissipate this goodwill and that we put it to the best use possible by making sure that it is used in the best way possible, which is for the sake of our people," commented opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who also met with the South Korean leader during his visit.

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