North Korean hackers allegedly probing USA utilities for weaknesses

Posted October 12, 2017

The US military flew two strategic bombers over the Korean Peninsula in a show of force yesterday as Donald Trump met defence chiefs to discuss how to respond to North Korea following the reported hacking of wartime operational plans.

The bombers took off from the US Pacific territory of Guam on Tuesday night, before entering South Korean airspace and conducting firing exercises over the East Sea and Yellow Sea, South Korea's military said.

North Korea is also facing strong sanctions from the USA and firm condemnation from the worldwide community in the wake of repeated missile launches and nuclear tests. Pyongyang has historically conducted tests on noteworthy anniversaries and holidays such as a missile test on July 4 for America's Independence Day.

Suspicions that Pyongyang may have stolen intel from South Korea will do nothing to de-escalate tensions with the USA, which are already at a 50-year high following the North's rocket tests.

"While I would not characterize them as the best in the world, they are among the best in the world and the best organized", Army Gen. Vincent Brooks, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, told the Senate previous year.

While the new measures also include limitations on the sale of refined petroleum products and crude oil, European Union member states will not provide new work permits to North Korean nationals.

The training was part of a programme of "extended deterrence" against North Korea, it added. The aircraft then conducted similar simulated air to ground striking drills off the peninsula's west coast, according to South Korea's Defense Ministry. Lee, who didn't specify his sources, said the plans allegedly stolen by the North include operations for tracking the movement of the North's leadership, isolating their hideouts, executing air assaults and follow-up actions for securing and eliminating targets, which would obviously include North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Outside governments and global human rights organizations say Kim rules as a tyrant over a largely malnourished and abused population while enjoying a luxurious lifestyle backed up by a weapons program almost advanced enough to viably target the USA mainland with nuclear-tipped missiles. While early 80 percent of the documents had not yet been identified, they reportedly included contingency plans for South Korean special forces and information on military facilities and power plants, it said.

While the officials said the exercises are long scheduled and not in response to recent tensions, similar exercises have prompted strong condemnation from North Korea in the past.