Since they both achieved independence in 1948, Burma and North Korea have enjoyed a chequered relationship. Burma supported the UN forces during the Korean War, but after the signing of the 1953 armistice it established good working relations with the two Koreas. Consular links with both states were established in 1961 and full diplomatic relations followed in 1975. During the 1960s and 1970s, General Ne Win's government made efforts to balance the competing demands of North Korea and South Korea for recognition, diplomatic support and trade. However, during the late 1970s the relationship with Pyongyang became slightly stronger than that with Seoul, as Ne Win and the Burma Socialist Programme Party forged fraternal ties with Kim Il-sung and the Workers' Party of Korea.
The bilateral relationship with North Korea dramatically collapsed in 1983, after Pyongyang sent three agents to Rangoon to assassinate South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan, who was making a state visit to Burma. Due to a last minute, unannounced change to his schedule, Chun survived the massive bomb attack at the Martyr's Mausoleum, but 17 South Korean and four Burmese officials, including four Korean Cabinet ministers, were killed. Forty-six others were injured.
There was probably at least one bilateral agreement as early as 2000, but the relationship seemed to reach a major turning point around 2003. In July that year, it was reported that between 15 and 20 North Korean technicians were working at the Monkey Point naval base in Rangoon.
^Andrew Selth, Burma's North Korean gambit: A challenge to regional security?, Canberra Papers on Strategy and Defence No. 154, Australian National University, Canberra: Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, 2004.
^The Burma Socialist Programme Party's policies favouring economic autarky were seen as being similar to Kim Il-sung's juche (self-reliance) philosophy.
^The Bomb Attack at the Martyr's Mausoleum in Rangoon: Report on the Findings by the Enquiry Committee and the Measures taken by the Burmese Government.
^‘North Koreans return to Burma’, Far Eastern Economic Review, 10 July 2003, p. 8.