The Ukrainian government has released a report refuting allegations that Ukraine could have provided North Korea with rocket engines allowing the country to rapidly develop its intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) program.
This report comes as the U.S. Treasury Department imposes new sanctions targeting Chinese and Russian entities and individuals for supporting the North Korean regime.
Oleksandr Turchynov, Secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) and chair of the working group tasked with investigating the issue, published the conclusions of his agency’s investigation into the claims, which were first advanced in a publication by the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) think tank and then in an article by the New York Times.
The NSDC report concludes that the existing system of state export control makes it impossible that RD-250 engines — the model identified in the IISS report — could have been sent from Ukraine to North Korea.
According to the investigation report, Ukrainian experts also analyzed images of two North Korean ICBM models and concluded that they use neither an adapted RD-250 engine, nor any components of the RD-250. The report also notes that the Ukraine's Yuzhmash aerospace firm (known as “Pivdenmash” in Ukrainian) utilized thirty RD-250 rocket engines and ten RD-262 engines — a high-altitude modification of the RD-250 — to produce ten Tsyklon-3 multistage orbital carrier rockets, which were provided to Russia between 1992 and 2008.
However, the report emphasizes that the RD-250 and its modifications have not been produced in Ukraine since 1991 and the country dismantled the technological line for their manufacture in 1994. In its conclusions, the NSDC also provides a short inventory of the remaining RD-250 and RD-262 engines in Ukraine.
Additionally, the report claims that the very suggestion of Ukrainian involvement with North Korea represents a Russian disinformation campaign against the country. It claims that, in June 2017, Russia distributed a document alleging that the Ukrainian specialists took part in developing a North Korean missile among Moscow-based diplomats.
It also insinuates that Michael Elleman, the author of the initial IISS report that sparked the North Korean missile controversy, and his family have “close relations with key officials of the Russian security services.”
From 1995 to 2001, Elleman led the United States Government’s Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, which works to dismantle obsolete long-range missiles, in the Russian city of Chelyabinsk. That sojourn in Russia has led some in Ukraine to suggest that Elleman is on the Kremlin’s side, charges he previously denied over Twitter.
The NSDC council working group also spared some venom for the New York Times, whose article gave Elleman’s view a significant amount of publicity.
With Russia waging information war against Ukraine, the working group suggested that the Times article helped to cover up and distract world attention from “the Russian Federation’s likely participation in the implementation of the North Korean missile programs.”
Published on August 14, Elleman’s report concludes that, during the last two years, North Korea was able to rapidly advance its ICBM program using a modified version of the RD-250 engine produced in Dnipro, Ukraine at the Yuzhmash factory. Elleman makes it clear that he is not alleging that the Ukrainian government actively assisted North Korea in developing the missiles or that it intentionally transferred the RD-250s to Pyongyang.
Rather, he concludes that there are RD-250s lying in storage in both Ukraine and Russia, and postulates that these engines may have been smuggled to North Korea, possibly by criminal networks.
On August 22, the U.S. Treasury Department announced new sanctions targeting Chinese and Russian entities and individuals for supporting the North Korean regime. Ten entities and six individuals were designated in response to North Korea’s continued development of weapons of mass destruction, violations of UN Security Council Resolutions and attempts to evade U.S. sanctions.
/By Matthew Kupfer