Putin’s ‘dangerous’ game with North Korea

The Daily Beast reports: In May, President Putin admitted that the missile tests Russia’s friend Pyongyang performed this year were “dangerous.” But he insisted, “We must stop intimidating North Korea and find a peaceful solution to this problem.”

What was Putin’s plan? Go easy on Pyongyang and team up with China to get tough on the United States, all in the name of mediation.

But at the time, North Korea was just about to make a major breakthrough. Previously it had been testing an intermediate range missile called the Musudan that failed repeatedly. But in mid-May, it launched a liquid fuel Hwasong-12, capable of reaching the American territory of Guam or beyond.

Then, to the consternation of the international community, on July 4—Independence Day in the United States—North Korea launched the two-stage Hwasong-14, a true ICBM capable of reaching Alaska. That was followed by the launch of another Hwasong-14 that demonstrated even greater potential range on July 28. The continental United States was coming in range.

Where did impoverished little North Korea get the wherewithal to build such ICBMs, not to mention the nuclear weapons that might someday ride in their nose cones?

International experts have concluded that the rocket engine used by North Korea was of the Soviet-origin RD-250 family, but where the engines came from, and whether they were brought in whole, built from parts, or constructed from scratch based on plans is not clear.

Michael Elleman at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, publishers of The Military Balance, wrote earlier this month that, “No other country has transitioned from a medium-range capability to an ICBM in such a short time,” and concluded North Korea acquired “a high-performance liquid-propellant engine” from “a foreign source.”

“An unknown number of these engines were probably acquired through illicit channels operating in Russia and/or Ukraine,” Elleman wrote, suggesting they probably were acquired in one form or another over the last two years.

But there is evidence the North Korean effort to make such acquisitions dates back much further. [Continue reading…]

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