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Burma-N Korea ties 'of concern'

Hillary Clinton on Suu Kyi: "We have condemned the way that she has been treated"

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said Washington is "very seriously" concerned about the transfer of nuclear technology from North Korea to Burma.

Arriving in Thailand ahead of a forum on regional security, she said the relationship was a threat to stability.

She also condemned Burma's treatment of jailed pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Foreign ministers from the Asean grouping, as well as EU and US envoys, are meeting on Wednesday in Thailand.

"We worry about (the) transfer of nuclear technology," Mrs Clinton said in comments in a television interview in Bangkok to be broadcast later.

Asked if she meant from North Korea to Burma, she said: "Yes."

"We know there are also growing concerns about military co-operation between North Korea and Burma, which we take very seriously," Mrs Clinton said on Tuesday after meeting Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in the Thai capital, Bangkok.

"It would be destabilising for the region, it would pose a direct threat to Burma's neighbours," she said.

'Unacceptable treatment'

On her arrival in Bangkok, Mrs Clinton also said: "The United States is back."

Asean leaders have expressed satisfaction that a figure as senior as Mrs Clinton is attending the regional forum. During the Bush adminsitration more junior US officers were sent, leaving the delegate from China - a growing influence in the region - as the key figure at the talks.

This year's forum, being held on the resort island of Phuket, is expected to focus on North Korea and Burma.

Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win (L) reads documents during the Asean meeting in Phuket
Burma, a member of Asean, is likely to face some awkward questions

Mrs Clinton is expected to put pressure on North Korea to return to the six-party talks on its nuclear disarmament.

US officials have said she is to meet with her counterparts from the other parties to the six-nation talks: South Korea, Japan, China and Russia.

It is not clear if Mrs Clinton will meet any North Korean delegates. Pyongyang has refused to send its foreign minister to Phuket but will send a "roving ambassador".

Speaking on the issue of Burma, Mrs Clinton the US expected "fair treatment" of Aung San Suu Kyi.

"We have condemned the way that she has been treated by the regime in Burma, which we consider to be baseless and totally unacceptable."

Ms Suu Kyi has been jailed or under house arrest for about 14 of the last 20 years. She is currently in a Rangoon prison on trial for allegedly breaking the conditions of her house arrest.

The Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) has a policy of non-interference in members' affairs, but Burma has provoked widespread censure.

Speaking earlier on Tuesday, Indonesian Foreign Minister Hasan Wirayuda said elections that Burma's military rulers have promised for next year could not be free and fair unless Ms Suu Kyi was freed.

A new human rights body created by Asean, lambasted by regional activists as lacking any enforcement power, was almost scuttled over the weekend when an increasingly assertive Indonesia sought to strengthen its provisions.



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