It seems that ASEAN continues to place faith in Myanmar despite allegations that the reclusive country is developing nuclear weapons, without any attempts to verify the allegations.

“We have no valid or complete information on that. I think everybody who is involved in this discussion has some part of the information and [is] making a lot of conclusions based on some assumptions,” ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan told The Jakarta Post here on Tuesday in an interview.

“But there is no complete fact for us to draw an informed judgment.”

Foreign Ministry director general for Asia-Pacific and African affairs and acting director general for multilateral affairs Hamzah Thayeb said Monday that it was impossible for Indonesia as the current chair of ASEAN to verify the nuclear development allegations against Myanmar.

“It would mean breaching ASEAN’s principle of noninterference,” he told the Post.

He also said all ASEAN countries, including Myanmar, were bound to the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone (SEANWFZ) agreement.

“It is a regional application, the regional umbrella agreement. We are even trying to get external powers, the nuclear powers, to sign on to our treaty, so that all member states of ASEAN have the legal application to abide by the treaty,” he said.

On Monday, ASEAN concluded four discussion points for the 2007-2012 plan of action as its member states’ common reference for future consultation with the nuclear weapon states — the US, the UK, Russia, France and China.

It is believed that the nuclear weapon states refused to sign the protocol largely due to US and French objections over the unequivocal nature of security assurances and the definitions of territory, including exclusive economic zones (EEZ). The treaty zone covers the territories, continental shelves and EEZs of the party states within the zone. China in particular objected to the treaty’s inclusion of the Southeast Asian signatories’ continental shelves and EEZs, arguing that this prejudiced its extensive claims in the South China Sea.

According to a source at the ministry, nuclear weapon states, in particular the US, objected to an ASEAN term that bans vessels carrying nuclear weapons or nuclear materials from entering EEZ of ASEAN countries, arguing that it is in violation of principles of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

On May 26, navy destroyer USS McCampbell caught up with North Korean cargo vessel M/V Light, which was suspected of carrying missile technology to Myanmar, and asked to board it, The New York Times reported.

The North Koreans refused. Not wanting to force its way aboard, the US could not confirm its suspicions. Nonetheless, a few days after the US navy approached it, the North Korean vessel stopped well short of Myanmar and returned to its home port.

In a statement addressed before the 54th Annual Regular Session of the IAEA in Vienna in September 2010, the Myanmar government said the allegations were “unfounded” as Myanmar applied nuclear science and technology “only for peaceful developmental purposes and Myanmar will never engage in activities related to the production and proliferation of nuclear weapons”. –Mustaqim Adamrah, The Jakarta Post, Nusa Dua, Bali, Jakarta Post