The tense game of chicken the United States is now involved in with North Korea seems to be brought about by a combination of old Soviet influences and present Russian meddling in the Ukraine all coming home to roost. If you’ve been wondering why North Korea suddenly had such swift success in getting a long-range missile put together after years of setbacks, you probably have the Ukraine to thank, as well as black market assistance from a few sources in Russia.
An eagle-eyed analyst took a close look at the latest photos of Kim Jong-un and the new North Korean missiles, and he thought the rocket motors looked a lot like a Soviet design. Further sleuthing found that those particular Soviet rocket motors were only made in a few places, including Dnipro, Ukraine.
Unfortunately for Guam, Japan, and everywhere else in North Korea’s sights, Dnipro made some of the Soviet’s biggest, baddest missiles, and while it’s still open, it’s barely producing anything. That has lead to some broke, frustrated missile makers who might be willing to do business on the black market, including selling off the secrets of the RD-250 Yuzhmash model missile.
It’s no secret that, throughout the 1980s, Soviet missiles made there way to Iran and North Korea. The latter got them through Syria and Egypt, and then hired languishing Soviet engineers to do the rest of the tinkering while the USSR fell apart. That gave North Korea a pretty passable model of a Soviet missile to work off of, and they have been ever since. But there were a few key details and parts missing, and that’s where the Ukraine has come in.
The United Nations even looked into matters six years ago and found that the North Koreans were trying to steal missile secrets from Dnipro. They didn’t succeed. But then Russia annexed Crimea and instability in the remaining Ukraine gave North Korea another opportunity to try their luck with Dnipro, and this time it seems to have been successful.
Of course, the Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko denies all of this, as does the Dnipro factory. But these very specific missile models had to find their way to North Korea somehow. While Trump has been scolding China for being uncooperative, he might have been blind, once again, to the influence Russia and its neighbors have on North Korea. That’s all the more ironic given that the Trump administration was just recently pondering the possibility of giving the Ukraine lethal weapons to needle Russia and get an upper hand as relations continue to worsen.
(Via the New York Times)