US embassy cable - 03RANGOON147

RUSSIAN MIGS AND REACTORS

Identifier: 03RANGOON147
Wikileaks: View 03RANGOON147 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Rangoon
Created: 2003-02-04 08:53:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: KNNP PARM MARR BM IAEA BNUC RU
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L RANGOON 000147 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR EAP/BCLTV 
USCDR PACOM FOR FPA 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/02/2013 
TAGS: KNNP, PARM, MARR, BM, IAEA, BNUC, RU 
SUBJECT: RUSSIAN MIGS AND REACTORS 
 
REF: 02 RANGOON 942 
 
Classified By: COM Carmen Martinez. Reason: 1.5 (d). 
 
1. (C) Summary: Russia now has the only bilateral military 
and technical cooperation agreement with Burma, according to 
a Rangoon-based Russian diplomat. A draft agreement for the 
sale of a 10 megawatt research reactor was approved by the 
Russian government last year and is now under study by the 
GOB.  Twelve MIG-29s have also been delivered though they 
remain bare of weapons packages. End Summary. 
 
Military and Technical Cooperation  Agreement 
 
2. (C)  A Russian emboff told Poloff on January 30 that 
Russia is the only country that has a military and technical 
cooperation agreement with Burma.  Supposedly, that agreement 
was worked up to provide a framework for the sale of the 
nuclear reactor.  A first set of consultations under the 
agreement was held in Russia in 2002.  The next set will take 
place in Rangoon this year. 
 
Nuclear Reactor 
 
3. (C) Russia has approved a "draft agreement" for the sale 
of a 10 megawatt research reactor to Burma, but has still not 
received a response from the GOB, which has been studying the 
agreement since last year.  The Russian officer believes that 
money is the problem; the GOB does not have the $150 million 
that would be required to complete the whole project. 
Nevertheless, it is locked in to working with Russia.  Six 
hundred Burmese students (350 in 2001 and 250 in 2002) have 
already been sent to Moscow for training on all aspects of 
uranium mining and processing, and on reactor operation and 
research.  Once trained on Russian reactors, they're not 
going to be able to work on anything else. 
 
4. (C) As for uranium, the Russian said that the Burmese have 
identified four deposits and sent samples to Pakistan for 
assessment last year.  Reportedly, the assessment was 
positive; the ore is suitable for processing into reactor 
fuel.  However, it is still not clear how much uranium is 
available in each site.  For that, some further geological 
investigations will be necessary. 
 
5. (C) Asked why the GOB would want to spend $150 million of 
money they don't have on a reactor, the emboff said that he 
believed the GOB's ultimate objective was to become an 
exporter of reactor fuel "in 10 to 20 years."  In any case, 
he insisted that the reactor (a 10 megawatt, light water 
system) was not suitable for the production of weapons.  He 
also said that the North Koreans were not involved in the 
reactor project.  The North Koreans wanted to sell Burma two 
submarines, he said, adding that he did not think they were 
looking to transfer any nuclear technology. 
 
MIG-29s 
 
6. (C) The Burmese have taken delivery of 12 MIG-29s, but 
have not paid anything other than the initial down payment, 
according to the Russian.  The remaining payments have been 
rescheduled over four years.  Nevertheless, Russia is ready 
to be patient.  MIG-29s have an operational life of about 40 
years, and the GOB will require spare parts, training, 
maintenance, and upgrades for as long as they maintain their 
MIG fleet.  In other words, the Russians feel they have the 
Burmese hooked and are content to wait for payment on the 
original purchase, so long as that purchase continued to 
throw up opportunities for further sales.   Reportedly, the 
MIG-29s are so far bare of any weapons packages.  The Russian 
Emboff speculated that they may have some political value to 
the GOB, as indicators of the GOB's long-term ambitions for 
the air force, but right now were essentially useless as 
weapons of war.  (DAO note:  Some MIG-29 training is in 
process.  The Burmese are also reportedly negotiating with 
Ukraine for air-to-air missiles though there are no confirmed 
reports of deliveries as yet.) 
Martinez 

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