From the Archive

From Foes to Friends: Military Trip Rekindles Burma-North Korean Relations

By The Irrawaddy 19 April 2017

In November 2008, a 15-member Burmese military delegation boarded a flight from Naypyidaw to Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, via Beijing.

One year had past since Burma resumed diplomatic relations with the pariah nation after more than two decades of estrangement.

Thura Shwe Mann, then the Burma Army’s chief of general staff, led the delegation. He now heads the Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission; formed when the National League for Democracy came to power in 2016.

A leaked document about the trip states that the delegation was in North Korea and China from Nov. 21 to Dec. 2 on the invitations of North Korean’s Chief of General Staff General Kim Gyok Sik and China’s People Liberation Army’s Commander in Chief Gen. Chen Bingde.

The itinerary on the document shows the delegation stayed in North Korea until Nov 29 before heading to China. The trip’s purpose, according to the document, was to study the militaries in North Korea and China. The delegation would then use their findings back in Burma to improve the efficiency and patriotism of their own army.

Here is a selection of leaked photos from our archive documenting the clandestine trip. Apart from the military studies, it also appears in the pictures that Gen Thura Shwe Mann and his North Korean counterpart Gen Kim Gyok Sik signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU), the contents of which have never been verified.