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Old 08-14-2017, 08:00 PM   #1
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Ukraine in cahoots with No. Korea...

North Korea missile parts linked to Ukraine
14 Aug.`17 - Pyongyang said to have used modified version of Russian-designed missile engine
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North Korea’s dramatic leap forward in ballistic missile capability has its origins far beyond the Korean peninsula, experts believe: in Russian technology that may have been acquired from a factory near Ukraine’s restive east, although the timing for any transfers is not clear. Military analysts and western intelligence agencies have been scrambling to explain Pyongyang’s string of successful long-range test firings, which have escalated tensions and triggered a war of words with Washington. North Korea’s Hwasong-14 missile, tested for the first time, twice, last month, is unlike anything that has preceded it in the hermit state’s ballistic arsenal: its purported range makes it capable of striking the continental US.

A series of provocative missile tests has already shown the US territory of Guam, home to a military base, to be credibly within range of Pyongyang’s latest rockets. Such advances stand against a patchy record. The dictatorship’s previous efforts to develop its own Musadan rocket into a viable long-range ICBM — including a number of tests last year — have almost all failed. The “astounding strides” that Pyongyang has made can only be explained by assuming the country gained access to foreign technology, a new comprehensive analysis of North Korea’s missile-test footage and data concludes. “The Hwasong 12 and 14 are powered by a [liquid propellant engine] imported from an established missile power,” said Michael Elleman, senior fellow for missile defence at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a think-tank, in a report published on Monday.

Mr Elleman said the North Koreans were almost certainly using a modified version of the RD-250 — a Russian-designed missile engine that is only available from two sites: the Energomash concern in Russia and the KB Yuzhnoye design bureau and its closely linked Yuzhmash rocket factory in Ukraine. The RD-250 engines being used by North Korea also appear to have been skilfully modified, said Mr Ellemen — indicating that foreign engineers had been purposefully engaged in developing the engines for sale to the North Koreans.

Mr Ellemen’s report points to the Yuzhnoye facility in Ukraine as the likeliest source. The war between Ukraine and Russian-backed proxies in the restive east, close to the factory, has crippled the business, making its site, and employees, a potentially easy target to exploit. “A small team of disgruntled employees or underpaid guards at any one of the storage sites, and with access to the [engines], could be enticed to steal a few dozen engines by one of the many illicit arms dealers, criminal networks, or transnational smugglers operating in the former Soviet Union,” the IISS report says. “The engines (less than two metres tall and one metre wide) can be flown or, more likely, transported by train through Russia to North Korea.” The authors of both papers also told the FT that North Korea was likely to have a store of several of these adapted engines, with estimates ranging from 10 or so at the low end to upwards of 40 at the upper end.

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