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Saturday, August 19, 2017


Kim Jong-Un of North Korea

Kim Jong-Un of North Korea

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 with historical ties to Russia’s missile program, according to an expert analysis being published Monday and classified assessments by American intelligence agencies.

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, according to a new study by Michael Elleman, a missile expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Such a degree of aid to North Korea from afar would be notable because President Trump has singled out only China as the North’s main source of economic and technological support. He has never blamed Ukraine or Russia, through his secretary of state, Rex W. Tillerson, made an oblique reference to both China and Russia as the nation’s “principal economic enablers” after the North’s most recent ICBM launch last month.

Analysts who studied photographs of the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, inspecting the new rocket motors concluded that they derive from designs that once powered the Soviet Union’s missile fleet. The engines were so powerful that a single missile could hurl 10 thermonuclear warheads between continents.

Those engines were linked to only a few former Soviet sites. Government investigators and experts have focused their inquiries on a missile factory in Dnipro, Ukraine, on the edge of the territory where Russia is fighting a low-level war to break off part of Ukraine. 

During the Cold War, the factory made the deadliest missiles in the Soviet arsenal, including the giant SS-18. It remained one of Russia’s primary producers of missiles even after Ukraine gained independence.

But since Ukraine’s pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, was removed from power in 2014, the state-owned factory, known as Yuzhmash, has fallen on hard times. The Russians canceled upgrades of their nuclear fleet. 

The factory is underused, awash in unpaid bills and low morale. Experts believe it is the most likely source of the engines that in July powered the two ICBM tests, which were the first to suggest that North Korea has the range, if not necessarily the accuracy or warhead technology, to threaten American cities.

“It’s likely that these engines came from Ukraine — probably illicitly,” Mr. Elleman said in an interview. “The big question is how many they have and whether the Ukrainians are helping them now. I’m very worried.”

In the meantime, at least 17 Yemeni civilians were killed and seven others injured in a roadside bomb blast in the country’s southern province of al-Dhalea on Monday, a police official told media.
The blast occurred in Qatabah district of al-Dhalea province when civilian vehicles running along the main road touched off an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) planted by terrorists, Xinhua reported.

Local medical sources confirmed that the violent explosion resulted in the killing of 17 civilians.

A local government official blamed the al-Qaida militant group for planting the IED in the district of Qatabah in an obvious attempt to blow up military vehicles passing through the area.

“The al-Qaida terrorists apparently planned to target the pro-government forces by IED but they failed and killed innocent civilians,” the government source said.

The Yemen-based al-Qaida branch, seen by the United States as the global terror network’s most dangerous branch, has exploited years of deadly conflict between Yemen’s government and Houthi rebels to expand its presence, especially in Shabwa and Abyan provinces.

Yemen’s government, allied with a Saudi-led Arab military coalition, has for years been battling Shiite Houthi rebels for control of the impoverished country.

UN statistics showed that more than 8,000 people have been killed in Yemen’s conflict, most of them civilians, since the Saudi-led coalition entered the conflict in 2015.

The impoverished Arab country is also suffering the world’s largest cholera outbreak, where about 5,000 cases are reported every day.

By Maritime First

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