North Korea’s (DPRK) nuclear missile program remains a major headache for the USA and much of the wider world.
Its development would not have been possible, however, without Pyongyang’s access to Soviet technology, specifically nuclear-capable hardware that remained in Ukraine after the collapse of the USSR.
This article delves into the unlikely story of the part Ukraine played in making North Korea a major threat to America and its Asian allies.
The USA, South Korea and Japan share a lot of common goals, one of them being the complete de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. US President Joe Biden has once again made this point clear at the 2022 NATO summit in Madrid.
Meanwhile, Washington’s allies in Asia have recently found a new reason for concern – on June 14, South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin announced that North Korea had completed preparations for a new nuclear test.
Prior to that, in March 2022, Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un effectively ended his country’s self-imposed 2018 moratorium on testing intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM’s) capable of reaching US soil.
Now, Seoul and Washington are anxiously awaiting news about new test launches. How does a country which is effectively cut off from the rest of the world even achieve this level of technology? You might be surprised, but we must go to Ukraine for answers.
Today, we can say with near absolute certainty that, when designing and constructing its intercontinental ballistic missile, the DPRK used RD-250 rocket engines produced at the Ukrainian Yuzhmash machine-building plant in the city of Dnepropetrovsk.
Like most of the still-functioning industrial enterprises in Ukraine, Yuzhmash is part of the Soviet legacy. The plant was built in 1944 with World War II in full swing; later, during the Cold War, its engineers designed and produced the USSR’s most advanced missiles to compete with the US in the arms race.
The design bureaus of Yuzhmash, as well as Yuzhnoye Design Office, a similar enterprise in Dnepropetrovsk, were emphatic in their denial of any collaboration with Pyongyang and its nuclear missile program.
Relations between Kiev and Pyongyang have never been friendly and heartfelt enough to suggest Ukraine’s willingness to provide North Korea with powerful nuclear weapons. And 20 years after the Soviet Union collapse, espionage attempts by North Korea continued.
There is documentary evidence of Ukraine’s corruption-based cooperation with other countries in the nuclear missile field at the turn of the 21st century, which may invite precisely this kind of thinking.
Starting from the 1990’s, representatives of North Korea were caught red-handed trying to get hold of Soviet nuclear missile technology on many occasions.
Kashin believes Pyongyang has been conducting scientific and technical intelligence in Ukraine for quite a while now.
On 12 December 2012, the DPRK became the 10th nation to join the global space club by placing its Kwangmyongsong-3 (or KMS-3) satellite in Earth orbit. It was the same year when a high-profile spy case involving North Korean nationals was investigated in Ukraine.
Another issue that has likely played into the hands of North Korean technology hunters is the ‘brain drain’ phenomenon, with dozens of Soviet engineers fleeing abroad after the Belovezh Accords were signed in 1991, disbanding the USSR.
The post-Soviet de-industrialization of Ukraine took stable income and career prospects away from dozens of professionals working at the Ukrainian aerospace manufacturer Yuzhmash. So these people were forced to look for other ways to make a living.
Many of them found themselves in difficult circumstances –personally and professionally– after the fall of the Soviet Union. It’s even believed that some of them went to North Korea, Iran and Pakistan.
Compared to Western Europe and the USA, South Korea has been very reserved in its help to Kiev during this year’s crisis, providing mostly moral support and supplying non-lethal military aid. Some are surprised by this reaction.
Why doesn’t Seoul do more? Maybe South Korea is concerned with the possibility that the equipment received by Ukraine might someday magically reappear north of the 38th parallel?
RT. com / ABC Flash Point News 2022.
Thank God Ukraine doesn’t have nukes anymore, otherwise we all (east, west) would be dead a long time ago.
They had 1000 pieces, gave half back to Russia in 1994 and destroyed the rest?
The actual war in in Ukraine is not the best to limit the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. I think it will even worsen the situation because of people actually fleeing the country in desperation.
What a load of nonsense, the DPRK’s scientists and only them developed their nuclear program. The DPRK, Russia, China, and Iran should gang up together and wipe out all of NATO and the pseudocountries called “Ukraine” and “Israel” in a merciless annihilating nuclear strike, make sure there are no survivors.