North Korean missile launch that failed shortly after it was fired may have been thwarted through an ingenious cyber counter-strategy from the US.
The medium-range missile exploded seconds after it was launched on Sunday from a site near the port city of Sinpo, as Mike Pence, the US vice president, arrived in Seoul for talks with the South Korean government over how to deal with Pyongyang’s belligerence.
“It could have failed because the system is not competent enough to make it work, but there is a very strong belief that the US – through cyber methods – has been successful on several occasions in interrupting these sorts of tests and making them fail,” the former Conservative foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind told the BBC on Sunday.
In 2014, former US president Barack Obama ordered that efforts be stepped up to counter North Korea’s missile capabilities with cyber attacks and electronic warfare. North Korea has seen a significant increase in failed launches in the years since, though there has been no official claim of the programme’s success.
A US foreign policy adviser travelling with Mr Pence on Air Force Two said the test had come as no surprise.
“We had good intelligence before the launch and good intelligence after the launch,” the adviser told reporters on condition of anonymity.
“It’s a failed test. It follows another failed test. So really no need to reinforce their failure. We don’t need to expend any resources against that.”
North Korea warns US it is ready for nuclear attack