North Korea: Forget the nukes, the real threat is binary

Think North Korea can’t reach the US from the other side of the globe?  Think again. Photo: AP

WASHINGTON, April 7, 2013 ― Every day new headlines sprout about North Korea threatening the United States with nuclear war. Their current technology is estimated to have a nuclear device miniaturized down to the size of a Chevy Suburban. With their current ballistic missile capabilities, the North Koreans are unlikely to deliver a nuclear device more than 100 yards from the launch pad, something even psychopath Kim Jong-un is not likely to attempt, but their work on both ballistic missiles and warhead miniaturization continue apace.

Some consider Kim’s aunt and uncle to be the motivation for the saber-rattling; an effort to establish the young dictator as a competent and steadfast military tactician. As is typically the case, there are forces behind any figurehead pulling strings, working to an agenda which can only be guessed. Kim Kyong-hui and her husband Jang Sung-taek have long been a force within the Workers’ Party, with Miss Kim being both a four star general and the director of the country’s Organization and Guidance Department, a real life version of George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth.

There is speculation that the show of bravado is as designed to quell domestic unrest rather than to establish a credible position in the global military pecking order.

The Sunday Times edition of the Asia Press reported very disturbing accounts of a sanction induced famine run rampant; it may have devolved to cannibalism. A man was reportedly executed by firing squad for murdering his two children for food. One man was said to have exhumed his dead grandchild for food. The Japan based Asia Times claims to have recruited a network of citizen journalists inside North Korea and considers the reports accurate.

So if the speculation is correct ― the military posturing is meant to instill fear into a restive populace ― why the international rhetoric? North Korean leaders have a captive audience, spoon fed only what information their totalitarian masters decide is in their own best interests. Further speculation is that fears of imminent foreign aggression are being spread, as well as blame on foreigners for the deplorable conditions most of the citizens are living in.

Regardless of the intended audience for the threats, which are largely impotent, it is clear that the leadership in North Korea truly hates the United States. The reasons for the hatred are well documented. After World War II, Japan lost colonial rule over Korea, and the peninsula was split into two occupied zones: the north, supported by the communist Soviet Union, and the south, supported by the US. In 1948 the occupied zones were established as sovereign countries, quickly followed by an invasion by North Korea into the south in 1950. The Korean War was halted by an armistice in 1953, but the end of one war was the beginning of a new one: the Cold War.

SEE RELATED: How serious is the military threat from North Korea?

It is probably safe to assume eternal enmity with North Korea.

So what can the seemingly impotent country do to harm the powerful United States? The threat of conventional ordnance being delivered to US military bases in the Pacific theatre of operations is certainly a possibility that must be taken seriously, although the technological advantage the US holds over the North Koreans is significant to say the least. Anti-missile defense systems that were proven to be hugely effective in Operation Desert Storm; Patriot Missiles, should be able to knock anything out of the sky they throw at us.

As Achilles discovered when struck by Paris’s poisoned arrow, the United States has its own weakness as well. It also happens to be our greatest strength; our economy. North Korea clearly does not have the means to upset any global marketplace through direct manipulation. But what if it has placed a significant focus on developing not only technology, but talent as a means to cripple or infect the computer systems though which trillions of dollars “pass” every day?

Kim Heung-kwang, a former computer science professor in North Korea, trained “cyberwarriors” for the communist regime. North Korea as a country has remained disconnected from the internet, as from its inception it saw the internet as a very significant source of potential harm. Professor Kim defected to South Korea in 2003, at which time North Korea had 3,000 fully trained hackers at the “impotent” country’s disposal.

SEE RELATED: North Korea, China, United States nuclear threats and cyber attacks

They also recognized cyberwar as a very cost effective means of combating their enemies, of which the United States tops the list. By developing an efficient means of testing and identifying prodigies of mathematics, coding and analytics, the North Koreans have streamlined the process of developing some of the world’s most competent computer hackers.

Those children so identified are moved (along with their families) to the capitol city of Pyongyang and are provided far superior housing and sustenance as they are trained from an early age (like Chinese gymnasts) to infiltrate and infect computer systems around the world. As these individuals are given complete access to the internet, they are provided with a lifestyle that promotes a highly developed sense of patriotism and loyalty.

Estimates run as high as 5,000 fully trained, elite computer hackers at the disposal of the regime, which if given a specific task to work towards in concert could be devastating to any computer network in the world. This is a much more realistic means of warfare for a country that simply cannot spend hundreds of billions of dollars every year in an attempt to stay on pace with the US military, as even the vastly more wealthy Soviet Union discovered to their cost.

Imagine this scenario: The Federal Reserve places an order to purchase $40 billion in US treasuries May 1, 2013. Instead of their intended action, the Federal Reserve places $3 trillion in US treasuries for sale on May 1. Interest rates spike from 2 percent to 15 percent, global markets collapse.

Game Over.

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Mike Shortridge

Mike is a former Marine who served in the Middle East. He is disgusted with both the Republican and Democratic parties, seeing them as two heads of the same beast. He writes from the conservative perspective, with a focus on making complex subjects easy to understand.


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