Lois Ann Dort

Report links Ukrainian rocket firm to North Korean program

Chronicle Herald Aug.16, 2017

The New York Times is reporting that North Korea’s missile launch success is powered by Ukranian rocket technology pilfered from the same factory a Halifax company hopes to rely on to launch commercial satellites from Canso. 

The Times article named the supply source of the North Korean’s missile engines as the Ukrainian Yuzhnoye State Design Office and Yuzhmash Production Association. This is the same conglomerate that is in partnership with Maritime Launch Services; the company proposing to move forward with a spaceport in Canso, Nova Scotia.

Tuesday saw the Yuzhnoye State Design Office issue a press release stating, “Yuzhnoye and Yuzhmash strongly deny these unsubstantiated statements” published in the New York Times. The release went on to list a pointed rebuttal to The Times expert Michael Elleman and other points raised in The Times article which suggested the North Korean missile engines were procured from Yuzhnoye and Yuzhmash.

Maritime Launch Services Head of Spaceport Development Steve Matier, in an interview on Tuesday, said his company had no reason to believe that their Ukrainian partners had any part in North Korea’s missile capabilities. “There is no indication that the Ukraine manufacturing company is doing anything outside the MTCR (Missile Technology Control Regime) and the article (New York Times) is highly speculative with no foundation that we have been able to see.”

The Times article does suggests that a third party, other than the Ukrainian companies involved in the MLS Spaceport project, could be involved in the transfer of missile technology and materiel to North Korea, namely Russia. When asked about this possibility, Matier said, “If there is a third party potential, that would be it in my opinion because Russia was purchasing engines from the Ukraine for quite some years, since it became independent in the 1990s through to 2013 or 2014 when they terminated their contract with Ukraine to provide rocket engines to them for their missile program; supporting the space station or putting satellites in orbit.”

In light of the murky waters surrounding a partner in the MLS Spaceport project, the province was asked for their position on the approval of the Crown land lease for the proposed project in the Canso area. Heather Fairbairn, spokesperson for the Department of Natural Resources, wrote in an email responding to the query stated, “The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is still at the initial stages of its due diligence and review process as the applicant has other authorizations they need to satisfy. DNR reviews all requests to use Crown lands for development projects following appropriate policy and regulations with the goal of making decisions that are in the best interest of Nova Scotians.”  

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