Press Release

Statement by Yuzhnoye Press Center on Recent Publications by IISS and the New York Times Alleging Cooperation Between Ukraine and North Korea

By SpaceRef Editor
August 16, 2017
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The IISS and New York Times opinions published on North Korea’s ICBM successes are fictional, false, and inaccurate with regard to Ukrainian involvement. For organizations such as IISS and the NYT to publish such highly speculative material with unsupported claims and assumptions is unprofessional and inflammatory, with a seemingly political agenda. An uninterested observer would be highly likely to conclude who would benefit from this. This material is riddled with technical inaccuracies, amateur level assessments of technology, and a clear lack of understanding of rocket and missile technology.

Statements like “There is no evidence to suggest that North Korea successfully designed and developed the LPE indigenously.” should be paired with a statement that “there is no evidence that Ukraine supplied technology or hardware to North Korea”. Why would the authors state a lack of evidence in one case as important to consider and at the same time omit a reference to an absence of evidence to support their claims about Ukraine? Why would anyone publish this sort of material without contacting Yuzhnoye and Yuzhmash in Ukraine for a statement or input? We at Yuzhnoye and Yuzhmash have been contacted by numerous journalistic organizations worldwide asking us this same question, and asking to verify that we were not contacted by IISS or the NYT prior to their publishing. We were not.

The engines shown in North Korean photos are so dramatically different from anything designed in Ukraine that to the trained eye it’s ludicrous to propose that Ukrainian designs are present in North Korean systems. The combustion cycle of the North Korean engine is clearly open cycle, vs. the closed cycle designs which have dominated Ukrainian engines. Claiming that this engine development has taken place within the last 2 years is also ludicrous. Even the most advanced rocket engine designers in the world could not develop a new or heavily modified engine in anywhere near a 2 year timeframe.

Statements such as “Such expertise is available at Russia’s Energomash concern and Ukraine’s KB Yuzhnoye. One has to conclude that the modified engines were made in those factories.” is absurd conjecture. How can anyone assert that simply because expertise exists in one place that it must have been employed on behalf of another. What evidence is there of this?

Sections of the IISS material contains significant contradictions and inaccuracies that can be dismissed out of hand “Why single-chamber engines were transferred rather than the more powerful double-chamber original versions is unclear.” Single chamber versions of the RD 250 were never developed in Ukraine. Stating that there are “exporters” without any substantiating evidence is contrary to journalistic standards. “The single-chambered RD-250” is again a contradiction in terms, any single chamber engine would not be an RD-250. Publishing photos of North Korean engines with similar proportioned nozzles or using steering engines and attempting to conclude anything from this is like having a photo of an automobile tire of a certain diameter and attempting to conclude that it’s therefore a car of a certain model year and brand, it’s absurd.

“The total number of RD-250 engines fabricated in Russia and Ukraine is not known. However, there are almost certainly hundreds, if not more, of spares stored at KB Yuzhnoye’s facilities” This is where this writing really goes off the rails. What is the basis for this “certainty” that there are hundreds of engines stored at Yuzhnoye? This is a completely false claim. Yuzhnoye does not even have production or storage facilities for engines. It is possible that the North Korean engine benefited from prior Soviet designs, however Ukraine has never engaged in the design of the RD 250 or any derivative of the RD 250.

Statements such as “If North Korea began its quest to identify and procure a new LPE in 2016, the start of the search would have occurred in the same year Yuzhnoye was experiencing the full impact of its financial shortfalls.” Claims such as these are irresponsible, uninformed, and again clearly demonstrate a complete lack of factual awareness and reporting. In recent years Yuzhnoye has experienced a surge in business and an expansion of workforce. Yuzhnoye has hired over 600 new employees in the last 3-4 years with a total workforce of over 5500 as of this writing. None of this workforce has been engaged in any way with North Korea or in the support of North Korea. All work performed by Yuzhnoye and Yuzhmash is in compliance with the MTCR.

This IISS and NYT publication raise more questions than they answer, and the questions are of a geopolitical nature. Why is this IISS and NYT material being released at this time? Clearly this information has been in the public for some time. Why does the NYT material carefully suppress the emphasis on Russia that is present in the IISS material? What government investigators and experts are focusing on the city of Dnipro? None have contacted us at Yuzhnoye or Yuzhmash, if they had we would gladly invite them in. In fact Yuzhnoye and Yuzhmash have a long demonstrated and documented history of directly supporting US government efforts in non-proliferation since the 90’s, if anything the actual facts and evidence completely contradict the claims in this article. In addition Yuzhnoye has proposed continued support to the US government numerous times in recent years, in support non-proliferation activities. The IISS and NYT materials are false, uninformed, and appear to be crafted to support a geopolitical agenda vs reporting any evidence related to the North Korean ICBM programs or Ukrainian involvement. The international community should be very wary of this type of publication and the true nature of it’s intent and support.

Yuzhnoye and Yuzhmash have already clearly stated that we believe that external help was supplied to North Korea in a formal release on our web sites, we also emphatically state that it was not us that supplied this assistance. In addition, Yuzhnoye has already formally offered in person to the US embassy in Kyiv on August 15th 2017 to assist the US in an effort to determine exactly who has provided this assistance to North Korea. Yuzhnoye and Yuzhmash have always and will always be vigilant in non-proliferation efforts to keep technologies away from regimes that threaten world peace. Irresponsible, inaccurate, and false journalistic reporting won’t alter this fact.

Points of Contact:
Sergey Kutovoy
Head of International Cooperation Division

John Isella
Yuzhnoye Representative to the United States

SpaceRef staff editor.