Ukrainian-made rocket engines could have been copied for use in North Korea’s missile program, but Ukrainian experts didn’t help Pyongyang, says Alexander Degtyarev, a chief designer at Yuzhmash, the Ukrainian state-owned rocket factory recently implicated in an article by The New York Times.
Degtyarev also recalled the 2012 espionage trial against two North Korean spies, who were sentenced to eight years in prison for trying to steal secrets from Yuzhmash. The factory manufactures the Russian-designed RD-250 engine, which The New York Times says may have reached North Korea from Ukraine.
Earlier, Yuzhmash issued a press statement arguing in detail why its engines aren’t being used in North Korea, claiming that the North Korean engines described in The New York Times’ story are unlike the RD-250.
Yuzhmash also pointed out that the engines themselves were developed in Russia, and Ukraine dismantled all production lines in 1991. Despite this, the company said in its press release, the U.S. newspaper “for some reason reaches unambiguous, unjustified conclusions that the technology leaked from Ukraine.”
In a series of tweets on Monday, Michael Elleman, the author of the report on which The New York Times based much of its story, pushed back against the article’s claims, writing, “I do not allege [that the] Ukrainian government [was] involved. [The] transfer is the work of Russian/Ukrainian smugglers. [...] I don’t believe [the] Ukrainian government condoned or knew.”
According to an article that appeared in The New York Times on August 14, North Korea’s success in testing a new intercontinental ballistic missile was made possible by black-market purchases of powerful rocket engines “probably from a Ukrainian factory with historical ties to Russia’s missile program.”