At the time, Myanmar was ruled by a military junta known as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), who drew global criticism for its repressive political and human rights policies. The faction systematically denied the existence of nuclear-weapon-related work, which further fueled international suspicions, Santoro noted.
Following the SPDC's dissolution in in 2011, a civilian government helmed by President Thein Sein from the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party took over and implemented democratic reforms to advance economic development — a move that eventually resulted in the lifting of U.S. sanctions and paved the way for the first free election in twenty-five years.
Under Sein's rule, Naypyidaw abandoned its nuclear research program, embraced nonproliferation, and promised to roll back dealings with Pyongyang, Santoro explained. Sein's administration took concrete action to support these claims, including signing agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency, Santoro noted.
"The nonproliferation U-turn needs to be understood as part of the broader reform agenda, which began when the military decided to open up their country to the world," he explained. "A key motivation behind these reforms was to reach out to the U.S, and because Washington made nonproliferation endorsement a non-negotiable condition of its engagement, Naypyidaw delivered."
Myanmar is now a hotspot for foreign direct investment, home to American fast-food outlets and its own stock exchange.