Negotiations On the Line: North Korea
Trump’s tweets are part of his strategy to confront North Korea. (Whether it is a wise strategy remains to be seen.) The United States should go one step further in its use of cyber tools: We should consider using cyber-attacks to bring North Korea to the negotiating table.
Current U.S. policy consists of economic sanctions, verbal threats, and military exercises with the South Korean military. Current policy has failed to stop the North Korean nuclear weapons program or nuclear threats to the U.S. and our allies. Cyber-attacks can be the safe “military option” to advance U.S. policy goals of nonproliferation and peace on the Korean peninsula.
North Korea’s aggressive military and cyber provocations have put the Korean peninsula and U.S. national security at risk. The Kim regime has abused its people and power to develop nuclear weapons and missiles, threatening the U.S. and the Korean peninsula. The U.S. alliance with South Korea is critical to U.S. security and the security of our East Asian allies. Kim Jong Un has launched over 15 missiles across the Asia-Pacific region in missile tests in 2017 and has repeatedly threatened the United States with nuclear obliteration and is threating the world with nuclear proliferation.
Cyber-attacks would reinforce U.S. credibility. The tweets and threats by Trump must not be empty. We can carry out our threats without risking total devastation of the Korean peninsula. An active display of cyber force carried out by the United States would demonstrate power, threaten the reclusive state and instill fear in Kim Jong Un.
Cyber-attacks on the country’s intranet would allow the U.S. the power to pour in media content from the outside world, specifically highlighting a democratic South Korea. Psychological subversion through such exposure would show the North Koreans how Kim Jong Un has deprived them and it would force Kim Jong Un to negotiate with the United States and our allies if he wants to maintain power.
Cyber-attacks would also enhance U.S. knowledge of the North Korean nuclear program by providing information that would validate North Korean threats and targets and identify the vulnerabilities in the North Korea’s nuclear program which would also bring the regime to the negotiating table.
The approach of a cyber-attack should not be taken lightly. Our defenses must be ready, as North Korea proved its cyber capability through attacks on Sony in 2014. While North Korea feels the need to show off its power to the international community, the U.S. so far has not reacted in kind.
Now is the time to act. We should use our cyber power in support of our national security. The cooperation of China in these cyber efforts is more than plausible. Like us, China has critical interests at stake as it is displeased with North Korea’s behavior and has expressed the desire for a peaceful resolution. A cyber campaign can lead to a favorable, peaceful outcome. China also plays a role in North Korea’s cyber operations, so a united front against North Korea would strengthen the possibility of a successful outcome.
The cyber tools we use for social networking and public diplomacy can be recast in order to prevent nuclear proliferation and establish peace on the Korean Peninsula.