Ukraine caught North Koreans stealing 'missile plans'

WASHINGTON • Ukraine has released footage of two North Korean spies photographing what they thought were top-secret missile designs in a sting operation, as the country seeks to dispel claims that Pyongyang may have used designs stolen or originating from Ukraine in its development of intercontinental missile technology.

CNN said it was given footage of the sting operation by Ukrainian security services.

The grainy surveillance video was filmed on July 27, 2011, on a hidden camera set up within a garage to capture the end of a sting operation. In the video, Ukrainian security service agents can be seen bursting in and arresting the two suspects.

"The images are a little grainy, but in the half-light of a dusty Ukrainian garage, you can sense the unbridled enthusiasm of the two North Korean spies who are photographing what they think are top-secret missile designs," CNN reported, adding that the two men were eventually jailed.

Court papers from their 2012 trial showed that the North Koreans were seeking information on "ballistic missiles, missile systems, missile construction, spacecraft engines, solar batteries, fast-emptying fuel tanks, mobile launch containers, powder accumulators and military government standards", said the CNN report.

An officer with the Ukrainian security service who worked on the case told CNN it was "impossible" that North Korea had obtained any missile technology from Ukraine as he was sure their espionage attempts had all been intercepted.

Besides the two jailed in the 2011 case, there were no other North Korean spies left in Ukraine, the officer said. Those not deported had been voluntarily withdrawn, CNN quoted the officer as saying.

Ukraine has in recent weeks denied that it has ever supplied defence technology to North Korea.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 26, 2017, with the headline 'Ukraine caught N. Koreans stealing 'missile plans''. Print Edition | Subscribe