Look to Ukraine for N. Korea's Missile Engines: Expert
Expert analysis points to Dnipro factory as producing engines scooped up by Pyongyang
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 14, 2017 8:03 AM CDT
This July 4, 2017, file photo, distributed by the North Korean government shows what was said to be the launch of a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile in North Korea.   (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File)

(Newser) – Many are worried over North Korea's ICBM launch last month, which analysts say indicate its weapons can now reach the US. And what may be behind this apparent success: liquid-propellant rocket engines from a Ukrainian factory linked to Russia's missile program that were then scooped up on the black market, per the New York Times. This revelation comes via classified documents from US intelligence agencies and an analysis by Michael Elleman for the International Institute for Strategic Studies, in which he notes the "astounding strides" of North Korea's missile program, including its upgrade from medium-range missiles to a Hwasong intermediate-range missile and ICBM in just two years' time—which he says no other nation has ever done. Elleman says it seems Pyongyang was able to pull off this feat with a rocket engine based on Soviet RD-250 engines, which only a few Soviet plants made.

The state-owned Yuzhmash factory that's being eyed is in Dnipro, a plant the Times describes as "awash in unpaid bills and low morale." What Elleman says lends credence to his theory is that two North Koreans were busted six years ago trying to swipe data on these types of engines from there. The Yuzhmash website notes it "will not [participate] in any cooperation involving the transfer of potentially dangerous technologies outside Ukraine," though Elleman doesn't buy that. "It's likely that these engines came from Ukraine—probably illicitly," he tells the Times. "The big question is how many they have and whether the Ukrainians are helping them now. I'm very worried." No one's sure how the engines would've made it to North Korea, which the Times notes would indicate a "broad intelligence failure" on the part of all countries keeping an eye on Pyongyang. Elleman's in-depth take is here.

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