Ukraine president orders probe into 'groundless' alleged links to North Korea missiles

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko gestures as he visits the village of Odzisi near the administrative border with the Georgian breakaway region of South Ossetia, Georgia July 19, 2017. REUTERS/Irakli Gedenidze

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Poroshenko on Wednesday ordered a “thorough and comprehensive investigation” into the findings of a New York Times article that North Korea may have purchased rocket engines from Ukrainian factory Yuzhmas.

Ukraine denied on Monday that it had ever supplied defense technology to North Korea.

Poroshenko ordered checks that he said would prove the article false.

“No matter how absurd accusations of Ukraine are, we as responsible partners should carefully check the information published by the New York Times regarding alleged delivery of missile engines or related technologies to North Korea,” Poroshenko said in a statement.

He said the report was expected in three days.

“I am confident that this will allow us to confirm reliably ... the true source and purpose of this groundless fake,” he said.

Concern that North Korea is close to achieving its goal of putting the mainland United States within range of a nuclear weapon has raised global tensions in recent weeks. The United States is a key backer of Ukraine.

The secretary of the Ukrainian Security and Defence Council, Oleksandr Turchynov, said on Monday Ukraine “has never supplied rocket engines or any kind of missile technology to North Korea”.

State-owned Yuzhmash said it had not produced military-grade ballistic missiles since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Reporting by Natalia Zinets Editing by Jeremy Gaunt