North Korean hackers stole a huge trove of classified U.S. and South Korean military documents last year, including a plan to “decapitate” the leadership in Pyongyang in the event of war, a lawmaker in Seoul said Tuesday.
The revelations, if substantiated, come at a time of heightened tensions over North Korea, with President Trump most recently saying that “only one thing will work” when it comes to Pyongyang, hinting at military action.
The defense minister in Japan, a close military ally of the United States, said Tuesday that Trump might take such action against North Korea as soon as next month.
“I think President Trump will judge in the middle of November how effective pressure and other efforts have been,” Itsunori Onodera told reporters in Tokyo. “If there have been no changes from North Korea, it’s possible that the U.S. will take severe measures.”
In Seoul, Rhee Cheol-hee, a lawmaker in the ruling Democratic Party and a member of the parliamentary national defense committee, said that North Korean hackers broke into the Defense Integrated Data Center in September last year to steal secret files, including American and South Korean “operational plans” for wartime action. The data center is the main headquarters of South Korea’s defense network.
According to Rhee, the stolen documents included OPLAN 5015, the plan drafted two years ago for dealing with full-blown war with North Korea and said to include procedures to “decapitate” the North Korean leadership. He said the cache also included OPLAN 3100, outlining the military response to infiltration by North Korean commandos or another local provocation, as well as a contingency plan in case of a sudden change in North Korea.
While the two Koreas have technically been on a war footing since their civil war ended in an armistice in 1953, anything that suggests the death or ouster of North Korea’s leader, or his assassination, is tantamount to heresy in the North, where the ruling Kims are treated like gods.
Responding to reports about the plans for decapitation strikes, the North’s Korean People’s Army said in March that it would “deal deadly blows without prior warning” to “the U.S. and South Korean puppet forces.”