North Korea's hacking of South Korean defense information may explain why North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, is behaving so aggressively
After all, South Korea's announcement Tuesday that North Korea stole 235 gigabytes of South Korean defense files last year involved one standout element. The files, said influential South Korean parliamentarian, Rhee Cheol-hee, included a North Korea-focused decapitation plan.
That decapitation plan to assassinate Kim, and presumably his senior leaders, would likely be employed if a conflict broke out or was critically imminent. Think North Korean forward mobilization of combined arms formations and intelligence indicating imminent invasion.
Still, Rhee's claims shouldn't be considered on their own, because they match with comments made by the chairman of South Korea's parliamentary intelligence committee earlier this summer. Following a briefing from South Korea's National Intelligence Service, the committee chairman claimed that Kim is obsessed with his personal security, has reduced his public appearances, and "prefers to move at dawn and uses his subordinates' cars, such as a Lexus car, not his own Mercedes-Benz 600."
It seems notable that Kim's brinkmanship reached its current high level only this year, after last year's theft of the decapitation plan. Has Kim's behavior been motivated by his knowledge of the decapitation plan?
Although the North Korean leader has a penchant for unpredictable and perceivably irrational behavior, his erratic personal protection measures suggest that he really does fear for his life.
Yet there's another twist to this tale. We only just found out about the intelligence hack, but President Trump has likely been aware of it since he entered office in January. In turn, that might explain why Trump has been so personally specific in his threats to Kim. Perhaps he is twisting the knife in Kim's mind, knowing the North Korean leader is already petrified for his safety. Note something else: Last week, a senior CIA official in the agency's Korea mission unit stated that Kim is a "rational actor" and CIA Director Mike Pompeo stated that Kim has shown a "rational response" to certain U.S. posture developments. Trump would have been briefed on this intelligence assessment, so it's not a stretch to believe that Trump's tweets might represent an informed effort to encourage Kim to embrace a rational desire for survival and reconsider his ballistic missile development effort.
Regardless, that the North Koreans acquired the decapitation plan also suggests that they acquired other highly classified material. Because of its hypersensitivity, the decapitation plan would have been classified as top secret, compartmented information and thus available only to a select number of officials. However, the 235 gigabytes of information seized suggest North Korea ran rampant throughout the South Korean mainframes. We must assume that if the North Koreans could get that information, they also got a lot of other top secrets.
This is a big deal.