Sunday 22 September 2019

North Korean hackers steal US and South's war blueprint

Classified documents compromised included plans to assassinate Kim

Kim Jong-un has alarmed the world with his missile testing. Picture: AP
Kim Jong-un has alarmed the world with his missile testing. Picture: AP

Neil Connor in Beijing

North Korea has reportedly stolen a large amount of joint US-South Korean war plans, including details on how Kim Jong-un is to be assassinated during a potential conflict.

Pyongyang's secret army of hackers broke into the intranet of South Korea's Defence Ministry in August and September last year and compromised a large cache of classified documents, Rhee Cheol-hee, a local politician said.

Defence officials had previously admitted the breach but said no significant information had been stolen.

However, Mr Rhee said the hackers had accessed OPLAN 5015, which is part of the most recent blueprint for war with North Korea that was drawn up by Seoul and Washington in 2015.

Hackers also stole plans for "carrying out pinpoint decapitation operations against top North Korean leaders", the 'Chosun Ilbo' newspaper said.


Mr Rhee said some 235GB of data was stolen but only 22.5pc, or about 10,700 documents, have been identified.

Personnel reports on key South Korean and US military officials were among the documents that were identified, along with data on military installations and power plants in the South.

Minutes from meetings about South Korean and US military drills were also compromised.

Tensions have escalated sharply on the Korean peninsula in recent months with US President Donald Trump engaging in a bitter war of words with Pyongyang.

North Korea last month carried out its sixth and most powerful nuclear test. It has also carried out a series of missile tests which have alarmed the world.

It also emerged yesterday that Mr Trump could next month be standing just metres from Mr Kim's gun-toting soldiers during a possible visit to the heavily fortified Demilitarised Zone between North and South Korea.

Officials from Washington have reportedly visited the tense border area between the two countries - who remain technically at war - as they draw up detailed plans for the US president's upcoming visit to South Korea.

Mr Trump is heading to the South as part of a tour of Asia at the start of November when he is expected to deliver a strong message to Pyongyang over its build-up of nuclear weapons.

An anonymous South Korean defence official told Yonhap news agency that an advance team of US officials "looked around Panmunjom and Observation Post Ouellette".

Panmunjom is located in the 4km wide buffer zone between the North and South, who never signed a peace treaty to end their 1950-53 war, only an armistice.

Inside the 'truce village' is a Joint Security Area (JSA) where North Korean troops carry pistols and take photographs and video of visitors.

Last March, one North Korean solider was seen standing directly behind Rex Tillerson as he took a picture of the US Secretary of State when he visited Panmunjom.

Barack Obama visited Observation Post Ouellette in 2012, while two years later Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates - who were then senior officials in his administration - toured Panmunjom together.

However, a visit by Mr Trump to the DMZ would likely create a major security headache for South Korean authorities.

Mr Trump has vowed to "destroy" North Korea if it threatened the US, and also warned Mr Kim's regime it would face "fire and fury" as tensions over Pyongyang's military build-up have escalated in recent months.

Visitors who join a tour to the JSA must fill out a declaration that states the visit "will entail the entrance into a hostile area and the possibility of injury or death as a result of enemy action".


In recent weeks, North Korea has launched two missiles over Japan and conducted its sixth nuclear test, all in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions, and may be fast advancing toward its well-publicised goal of developing a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the US mainland.

Mr Trump repeatedly has made clear his distaste for dialogue with North Korea.

Last week, he dismissed the idea of talks as a waste of time, a day after Secretary of State Mr Tillerson said Washington was maintaining open lines of communication with Mr Kim's government.

"Our country has been unsuccessfully dealing with North Korea for 25 years, giving billions of dollars & getting nothing. Policy didn't work!" the US president said in a Twitter post.

The North regularly threatens to destroy the South and its main ally, the United States. (© Daily Telegraph London)

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