Did US Ally Supply North Korean ICBMs?

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In an interview for the Pryamoi television channel, Dnipro Mayor Boris Filatov admitted that the Yuzhmash aerospace plant, headquartered in Dnipro, had fallen on hard times, and that in his capacity as mayor, he engaged in some aggressive lobbying for the enterprise to prevent it from going bankrupt.

Filatov told the Ukrainian television reporter that he had a very frank discussion with some high level American politicians, telling them that if they didn’t provide a troubled Ukrainian rocket engineering factory with their support, Ukraine’s rocketry engineers might end up going to work for the North Korean missile program.

“I had a not so pleasant conversation with some very senior American politicians. I won’t say with whom. I told them simply: if things continue like this, these people may end up in Iran or North Korea. Is this what you want?” Filatov recalled.

The Pentagon, headquarters of the US Department of Defense

Last summer, Kiev was caught in an international scandal after intelligence reports published in the New York Times alleged that Ukrainian defense enterprises, including Yuzhmash and Yuzhnoye, may have sold advanced rocket engine technology to Pyongyang. These components were believed to have allowed North Korea to develop its advanced Hwasong-12 and Hwasong-14 intermediate range and intercontinental ballistic missiles. Kiev adamantly denied the claims, while Russian aerospace officials said that two scenarios were possible – a leak from Ukrainian enterprises, or a direct sale.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (not pictured) guides the launch of a Hwasong-12 missile in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on September 16, 2017

Commenting on the NYT piece, Filatov said it was unfortunate that Ukrainians have the attitude “that everything written in the Western media is the unquestionable truth.”

As for the present situation at Yuzhmash, the mayor said it is now “easier.” “Before that it was simply hopelessly and catastrophically bad. And for us, unfortunately, you know how it is – if someone is to blame, it’s the president, the mayor and the governor.” Major problems remain, Filatov said, including “mind-boggling” debt.

A major rocket, rocket engine and spacecraft manufacturer in its Soviet heyday, Yuzhmash has fallen on hard times in recent years, particularly amid strained relations between Kiev and Moscow following the Maidan coup d’état in Kiev in 2014. Traditionally dependent on the Russian market, the company has struggled to reorient its production, and has hung on the verge of bankruptcy ever since.Last week, the company reported that it was awaiting $8.2 million from Russia for the completion of the Zenit-2SLB launch vehicle, indicating that some level of cooperation continues. The company has also recently signed a contract to test Indian liquid fueled rocket engines over a two year period, and has reported that cooperation with the South Korean Korea Aerospace research Institute on the manufacture of rocket engine components will continue.

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