The “bloody nose” strike against North Korea currently being debated within the White House could begin with a cyber attack.
According to Foreign Policy’s Jenna McLaughlin, current and former intelligence officials say the Trump administration has set off “a nearly unprecedented scramble” within the intelligence community as a potential confrontation with Pyongyang comes to a head.
“The first shot will be cyber,” one of the former officials said.
While the Pentagon has been tasked with drawing up plans for a possible military conflict, U.S. spy agencies have spent the last six months “laying the groundwork for possible cyberattacks” against the regime of Kim Jong-un.
“This process involves installing fiber cables as bridges into the region and setting up remote bases and listening posts, where hackers may attempt to gain access to a North Korean internet that’s largely walled off from external connections,” McLaughlin writes.
Billions of dollars in resources and other technical capabilities such as “signals intelligence, overhead imagery” and “geospatial intelligence” are also being diverted to the North Korea problem.
“The Administration has made North Korea a top priority, and the CIA established its Korea Mission Center to harness the full resources, capabilities, and authorities of the Agency to address the threat posed by Kim Jong Un and his regime,” CIA spokesman Jonathan Liu wrote in an email to McLaughlin. “We shift resources as appropriate to tackle our most pressing challenges.”
The Trump administration, which deems its policy towards Pyongyang as one of “maximum pressure,” has spearheaded numerous rounds of sanctions against the rogue state but thus far stopped short of kinetic action.
The goal, as stated by Vice President Mike Pence Wednesday, is for North Korea to “completely, verifiably, and completely abandon” its missile and nuclear weapons programs.
While tensions on the Korean Peninsula continue to ebb and flow, experts remain divided on wether conflict is an imminent and foregone conclusion.
“There have been no travel warnings advising Americans to stay away from South Korea or Japan, and no advisories warning American businesses to be cautious,” the New York Times stated last month. “It is unlikely that the Pentagon would launch military action on the Korean Peninsula without first warning Americans and others there, military officials said — unless the Trump administration believes that the United States could conduct a one-time airstrike on North Korea that would not bring any retaliation from Pyongyang to nearby Seoul.”
North Korea responded last week to the possibility of a “bloody nose” strike by comparing the Trump administration’s actions to the run-up to the Iraq War.
“There is a foolish attempt to make pretence for provocation and pave the road for invasion ahead of conducting the military adventure ‘bloody nose strategy’ in the invectives of Trump recalling Bush’s reckless remarks of ‘axis of evil,’” the statement, featured in The Rodong Sinmun, the North’s ruling party newspaper, said.
The remarks were reportedly in response to Trump’s State of the Union address in which he lambasted “the cruel dictatorship in North Korea.”
“North Korea’s reckless pursuit of nuclear missiles could very soon threaten our homeland. We need only look at the depraved character of the North Korean regime to understand the nature of the nuclear threat it could pose to America and to our allies,” Trump said.