Russian scientists may have transferred missile designs to North Korea in the 1990s

This past year has seen North Korea dramatically improve its ballistic missiles, including construction and testing of one — the Hwasong-15 — that some believe is capable of striking all of the United States.

Now, there is some speculation that Pyongyang may have obtained these designs from former Soviet scientists in the 1990s.

After the Soviet Union collapsed, many of the country’s scientists were in need of work. Recently recovered documents indicate many found work, so to speak, in North Korean missile programs.

In 1992, just a year or so after the USSR’s collapse, about 60 scientists and their families were arrested in Russia as they attempted to travel to North Korea. Officials believe at least some scientists likely made it to Pyongyang.

Some of the North’s latest missile designs resemble older Soviet designs.

The North has begun to develop and successfully test the missiles in the past year because it was “recently able to acquire machine tools that were state-of-the-art in the 1990s,” David Wright, a nuclear-weapons expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“Once you have the plans and are able to get your hands on the materials and the right kinds of tools, you have a real leg up,” he added. [source]

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Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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