A South Korean lawmaker says North Korean hackers stole highly classified military documents that include US-South Korean wartime "decapitation strike" plans against the North Korean leadership.
U.S. Air Force B-1B bombers, top, and second from top, and South Korean fighter jets F-15K fly over the Korean Peninsula, South Korea.
Source: Associated Press
If confirmed, the reported hacking attack by the North would be a major blow for South Korea at a time when its relations with rival North Korea are at a low point.
The South has taken an increasingly aggressive stance toward the North's belligerence amid back-and-forth threats of war between North Korea and US President Donald Trump.
North Korea's possession of secret war plans would require a major overhaul of how South Korea and its ally Washington would respond if there's another war on the Korean Peninsula.
An unusually aggressive approach to the North by Trump, which has included rhetoric hinting at US strikes and threatening the destruction of North Korea's leadership, has some South Koreans fearful that war is closer than at any time since the Korean War ended in 1953 in a shaky ceasefire, leaving the Korean Peninsula still technically in a state of war.
Rep. Lee Cheol-hee, a lawmaker for the ruling Democratic Party who sits on the National Defense Committee, said defence sources told him that North Korean hackers last year stole the classified US-South Korean war plans.
They included parts of Operational Plan 5015, which includes procedures for a decapitation strike on the North's leadership if a crisis breaks out or appears imminent.
The Defence Ministry after an investigation said in May that North Korea was likely behind the hacking of the Defence Integrated Data Centre in September last year, but had refused to confirm media speculation that the decapitation strike plan was compromised.
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.
"There is an urgent need for the military to change and update parts that were stolen by North Korea," Lee said.
The United States, meanwhile, staged another show of force meant to deter any North Korean aggression by flying two B-1B supersonic bombers last night from an air base in the US territory of Guam to the South for drills with South Korean jets.
A pre-emptive strike against Pyongyang's leadership would be difficult to undertake, but it's widely seen as the most realistic of the limited military options Seoul has to deny a nuclear attack from its rival.