Ukraine is virtually an “anything goes” zone for American entrepreneurs – as well as for the North Koreans. That idea has been reinforced by news reports that a Ukrainian factory sold North Korea rocket engines for intercontinental ballistic missiles, which Pyongyang wants to arm with nuclear warheads so it can threaten the U.S. as well as peace in its region.

In 2014, Ukraine had a piece of its territory, Crimea, sawed off by Russia and parts of its east occupied by Ukrainian rebels backed by Russian military support. A low-boil state of war persists, and the country has become something of a Wild West black-market weapons trading post.

Military observers have been curious about how North Korea, which launched in recent months two long-range ICBMs, was able to get past usually effective U.S. efforts to sizzle its missile-launching capacities.

Ukrainian technology and a specific Ukrainian factory now appear to be the origin of the North Korean surge. The missiles, called Hwasong-14s, are apparently powered by Ukrainian-made RD-250 engines, and they are projected to be able to reach Guam, Alaska and who knows where else if their trajectories are appropriately programmed.

The Ukrainian factory is called Yuzhmash, and North Korean cooperation with it has been going on for about two years. It is also likely that Ukrainians have been helping the North Koreans with the technology involved, in North Korea itself.

Ukraine is a snakepit of runaway business transactions. It is a pity that an effective CIA element was also not more active along with American businesspersons in the snakepit and able to head off sales of engines and technology to North Korea. It would have been worth buying up underemployed Yuzhmash’s production and capacity to keep it out of the hands of Pyongyang.