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Rocket factory’s chief says two North Koreans were convicted for espionage at Yuzhmash

August 15, 16:23 UTC+3 KIEV

The New York Times reported earlier North Korea’s success in testing an intercontinental ballistic missile was made possible by black-market purchases of powerful rocket engines probably from Ukraine

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KIEV, August 15. /TASS/. Chief Designer of Ukraine’s Yuzhmash rocket-making company Alexander Degtyaryov said on Tuesday that two North Korean nationals had been convicted for espionage at Yuzhmash in 2012 and did not rule out that someone could have made a copy of the Ukrainian engine.

"Our engines are highly valued and used all over the world. That is why, I don’t know, perhaps, someone could have managed to make some copies," the Yuzhmash chief designer said in an interview with Strana publication, commenting on an article in The New York Times on Yuzmash’s possible cooperation with North Korea.

The Yuzhmash chief designer also said he was confident that "none of the plant’s employees was involved in helping North Korea develop a rocket engine."

At the same time, Degtyaryov recalled the 2012 incident when two North Korean nationals working for North Korea’s trade mission in Belarus had been sentenced to eight years for espionage at Yuzhmash. As investigators found, they tried to recruit the staff of Ukrainian enterprises through the Internet. They were interested in secret data related to the equipment of rocket and space hardware, in particular, the fuel systems of flying craft. The spies were detained while they were making photos of theses labeled as confidential.

At that time, as the Yuzhmash chief designer believes, there were no leaks of valuable information.

As for the article in The New York Times, this was someone’s "invention," the Yuzhmash chief designer said.

The New York Times reported on Monday, referring to a new study by Michael Elleman, a missile expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, that "North Korea’s success in testing an intercontinental ballistic missile that appears able to reach the United States was made possible by black-market purchases of powerful rocket engines probably from a Ukrainian factory."

"The studies may solve the mystery of how North Korea began succeeding so suddenly after a string of fiery missile failures, some of which may have been caused by American sabotage of its supply chains and cyberattacks on its launches. After those failures, the North changed designs and suppliers in the past two years," the newspaper reported the expert as saying.

According to the newspaper, the most likely supplier of the engines was Yuzhmash in Ukraine’s Dnepr (former Dnepropetrovsk).

Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine Alexander Turchinov said on Monday that enterprises of Ukraine's defense and aerospace complex had not supplied weapons or military technologies to North Korea,

"Some foreign media have published false information than Yuzhmash gave missile technologies to North Korea," he said. "This information is groundless."

Meanwhile, the Yuzhmash management said the Ukrainian rocket maker had no relation to North Korea’s missile programs.

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