Over the past few days and weeks, the probability of a hot conflict between the United States of America and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has escalated. Unpleasantly for American authorities, however, it has since been revealed that North Korea is in the possession of modern four-stage engine missiles capable of flying considerable distances, thus attributable to the Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles class.
Before, the North Koreans were known to have wielded rather simple and primitive rocket technology – tactical rockets with two-stage engines. As a person interested in the history of Russian (and Soviet) rocket science, I can say that it took advanced Soviet defense science – in constant competition with the Americans – decades of persevering work and enormous intellectual, financial, and organizational efforts to transition to three-stage and then four-stage rocket engines.
It seems, however, that the secret behind the North Korean “missile miracle” has been revealed by American media. Several days ago in The New York Times, an expert for the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Michael Elleman, and US intelligence officers suggested that the DPRK’s intercontinental ballistic engines had been purchased by North Korean specialists on the black market out of parts made in Ukraine.
Ukraine has denied these accusations with a fury. Moreover, in accordance with the old established Ukrainian tradition, Kiev has accused Russia of supplying the missiles. This was stated by one of the leaders of the Euromaidan and the head of the Council of National Security and Defense, Turchynov. Another Ukrainian politician and Turchynov’s former boss, Yulia Tymoshenko, admitted that it is indeed possible that Ukrainian missile engines had been supplied to the DPRK. If these facts are confirmed, she says, then Ukraine is faced with a disaster.
On August 16th, the scandal surrounding the DPRK’s possession of Ukrainian rocket engines received new impetus with two iconic pieces of news. The first: American intelligence officers stated that the DPRK might have independently produced such missiles engines without importing products. This statement is contrary to common sense and contradicts the realistic technological capabilities of North Korea. That North Korean military engineers accomplished a technological breakthrough in two to three years which took the Soviet Union whole decades with more powerful scientific and financial resources, is questionable. Logic dictates that the North Korean regime opted for the more simple and less expensive option – buying ready-made engines and thereby saving money and, most importantly, precious time.
The US has been compelled to cover up this scandal. If they recognize the Ukrainian origins of North Korea’s rocket engines, then they would have to admit that their support for the illegal Euromaidan government in Ukraine has been a strategic mistake. Of course, it could also be assumed that those who have spoken out simply want to scare American society with the boogey man of military and scientific progress in North Korea.
The other news is that the head of the Ukrainian enterprise Yuzhmash, Sergei Voyt, admitted to the Russian pranker Aleskey Stolyarov (“Lexus”), who was pretending on a prank call with the former to be Turchynov, that the DPRK’s missile engines really possibly could have come from Ukraine. During the telephone conversation, Lexus asked Voyt to openly answer whether Ukrainian rocket engines could have ended up on the territory of North Korea, to which Voyt replied that Yuzhmash could not be the source of the engines or technology, but that another enterprise cooperates with the DPRK – the Yuzhnoye Design Office. What exactly the staff do there, Voyt admitted to not know, but said that Ukraine’s SBU and SVR (foreign intelligence) would be aware.
Three conclusions are in order based on the above-said: (1) Yuzhnoye is a working partner of the DPRK; (2) the director of the Yuzhmash factory associated with Yuzhnoe “does not know” what his neighbors and longtime partners are doing; (3) those who need to know (Ukrainian intelligence), know.
Thus, the Yuzhmash director essentially confirmed the “Ukrainian trace” of North Korea’s missile engines. His hints and omissions seem to be very calculated and tailored for his interlocutor, who Voyt must have thought was none other than Turchynov himself.
Instead of an epilogue: a brief historical review
In 1954 in Dnepropetrovsk, which current Ukrainian authorities have renamed Dnieper, a design office was founded at the Yuzhmash plant and headed by the future academician Mikhail Yangel. Yangel’s office engaged in the development of ICBM’s and was the most threatening competitor of the legendary rocket scientist Sergey Korolev. Yuzhmash was one of the main missile manufacturers for the USSR, and it was here that the engines for ICBM’s were produced. The factory’s director in the late Soviet period was Ukraine’s second president, Leonid Kuchma.
Yuzhmash and Yangel’s Yuzhnoe’s golden age ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Although Dnepropetrovsk continued to produce engines for Russian rockets, an acute crisis onset in the 1990’s. Many scholars, designers, and engineers were forced to seek work on the side. Following the victory of the Euromaidan in 2014, the new Ukrainian government decided to cease cooperation with Russian manufacturers in the defense sphere. Thus, Yuzhmash was forced to switch to non-specific products and, in all seriousness, considered the potential of producing… trolleybuses.
In the 1990’s, the Ukrainian press reported numerous cases of military equipment, arms, and ammunition sold on the black market (bypassing the Ukrainian budget). Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, to recall, Ukraine was left with three military districts which in terms of volume of weapons even surpassed Russia. But over the first decade of Ukrainian independence, the biggest and best part of these weapons was sold. Yuzhmash was also reported to be trading such products. Moreover, designer engineers from Dnepropetrovsk were actively lured to other countries to engage in the creation of nuclear missile shields, such as those of Iran and North Korea.
Another detail of no small importance is that Dnepropetrovsk is the center of Ukrainian Jewry and the fiefdom of one of the most powerful clans, namely that which has produced Kuchma, Lazarenko (former president and prime minister), Tymoshenko, the oligarchs Pinchuk and Kolomoysky (the head of the Ukrainian Jewish Congress), and Yarosh (the leader of Right Sector). The Dnepropetrovsk clan is distinguished by an extreme lack of ideological purpose and downright cynicism. For example, Kolomoysky has financed Right Sector gangs with ease despite their extreme anti-Semitism.
Taken together, this shows just how morally and psychologically feasible it would be that that such highly profitable and highly demanded rocketry was sold on the global black arms market from none other than here.
Originally published on fort-russ.com