The U.S. is reportedly engaging in a cyber warfare campaign against North Korea’s missile program.
Three years ago, the White House instructed the Pentagon to sabotage missile tests through cyber and electronic strikes on North Korea’s missile systems, reports The New York Times. The aim of the campaign was to slow North Korea’s march towards the development of an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the U.S.
Shortly after the order was given, North Korea’s missiles began exploding on launch, straying from their intended flight paths, or coming apart mid-flight. Some of these failings can be attributed to North Korean incompetence; others, however, can perhaps be credited to the Pentagon’s secret anti-missile campaign.
Last year, North Korea tested its Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile eight times, with only one success. Kim Jong-un is said to have called for an investigation last fall into whether or not the U.S. and South Korea were sabotaging the North’s efforts to develop a reliable missile program. The probe began after North Korea had two back-to-back failures in October, reports the International Business Times.
The previous administration’s decision to engage in cyber warfare against the North’s missile program followed a realization that the U.S. missile shields could not reliably shoot down an incoming missile. Failure rates were reportedly as high as 56 percent. Officials began looking into “left of launch” tactics, preemptive strike methods involving non-kinetic technologies, such as electromagnetic propagation and cyber warfare to eliminate nuclear and ballistic missile threats prior to or just after launch.
The program was first introduced in December 2013, when Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced — without mentioning North Korea specifically — that the U.S. would use “cyber warfare, directed energy and electronic attacks” to defend against enemy strikes.
The U.S., in collaboration with Israel, reportedly used similar tactics to derail Iran’s nuclear program. As North Korea’s weapons program has become much more sophisticated, especially with the introduction of road-mobile, solid-fueled missiles, North Korea is definitely a much more challenging target.
When former President Barack Obama left office, he reportedly told then-President-elect Donald Trump that North Korea would be one of the most pressing issues he would face going forward. Trump has inherited the cyber war that his predecessor began, but other options are available. A report on possible courses of action, which range from the acceptance of North Korea as a nuclear weapons state to the application of military force, is being prepared for the president’s review.
During his New Year’s speech, Kim Jong-un said that North Korea has reached the “final stage of preparations to test-launch an intercontinental ballistic missile.” The foreign ministry later announced that the North could test fire a missile at any time. “Soon our ICBM will send the shiver down [America’s] spine,” the state-run Rodong Sinmun said shortly thereafter.
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