Video in Malaysian court shows practice before Kim attack
SEOUL, South Korea -- 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.
The United States, meanwhile, staged another show of force meant to deter any North Korean aggression by flying two B-1B supersonic bombers Tuesday night from an air base in the U.S. territory of Guam to the South for drills with South Korean jets. Such flights by the powerful aircraft based in Guam incense the North, which claims they are preparation for war; Pyongyang has threatened to send missiles into the waters around Guam.
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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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 defense sources told him that North Korean hackers last year stole the classified U.S.South Korean war plans, including 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 Defense Ministry after an investigation said in May that North Korea was likely behind the hacking of the Defense Integrated Data Center in September last year, but had refused to confirm media speculation that the decapitation strike plan was compromised. Defense officials refused to comment Wednesday.
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.
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.
Outside governments and international 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 nearly advanced enough to viably target the U.S. mainland with nucleartipped missiles. But Kim, the third generation of his family to rule, is officially revered in the North, and any suggestion of removing him from power is taken extremely seriously in Pyongyang.
Lee said that 235 gigabytes of military documents were taken, but the military has yet to identify 80 percent of the documents that were compromised. Other stolen data included contingency plans for South Korean special forces and information on military facilities and power plants, he said.
Seoul says North Korea has repeatedly staged cyberattacks on South Korean business and government websites. North Korea routinely denies responsibility.
Not long after the news of the alleged cyberattacks broke, two B-1B bombers few from Guam to conduct drills with two South Korean fighter jets Tuesday night, a South Korean Defense Ministry official said, requesting anonymity because of department rules.
The U.S. bombers staged simulated air-to-ground missile striking drills off the peninsula’s east coast before flying across the country accompanied by the two South Korean jets. The aircraft then conducted similar simulated air to ground striking drills off the peninsula’s west coast, the official said.
North Korea has yet to comment on either the bombing drills or the hacking claims. (AP)
SHAH ALAM, Malaysia -- The Vietnamese suspect in the assassination of the estranged half brother of North Korea’s leader was seen on airport security video presented in court Wednesday smearing something on a person’s face two days before Kim Jong Nam was killed in that manner.
The footage showed Doan Thi Huong running toward a person from behind and wiping his face, then clasping her hands and slightly bowing before moving away.
Describing other security videos the day of the murder, police officer Wan Azirul Nizam Che Wan Aziz testified Huong was more “aggressive” when she approached Kim Jong Nam compared to the practice incident.
Wan Azirul, the chief police investigator, said Huong arrived at the Kuala Lumpur airport two hours before the attack and bought a taxi voucher.
The attack on Kim took place about 9 a.m. on Feb. 13 in the airport’s departure hall. After smearing Kim’s face, Huong hurried away from Kim and “her hand gestures showed she was uncomfortable,” wan Azirul said. She walked swiftly to a restroom one floor below, keeping her hands partially raised and her palms away from her body as if to avoid contact.
Prosecutors said previously they would present evidence the two murder suspects knew they were handling poison when they killed Kim. Their defense lawyers have said the women were duped by suspected North Korean agents into believing they were playing a harmless prank for a TV show.
“She seemed to be anxious. From my observation, Doan has been informed and knew what needed to be done. Even though she seemed to be in panic, she knew what to do,” wan Azirul told the court.
Huong was in the restroom for just over a minute, and the police investigator testified she was more relaxed and her hands were in normal position after she left the restroom. She then headed to the taxi queue and was joined by the second suspect, Siti Aisyah from Indonesia, shortly afterward.
Other witnesses have testified that VX nerve agent was detected on Kim’s face and on the suspects’ clothing and on Huong’s fingernails clippings.
Witnesses also testified that washing hands could remove the oily substance.
Huong and Aisyah have pleaded not guilty to murder charges that carry a mandatory death sentence if they are convicted. (AP)