President Donald Trump ordered cyberattacks against North Korea months ago, a continuation of an Obama-era policy aimed at disrupting Pyongyang’s nuclear and ICBM development and testing.
Early in his administration, President Trump signed a directive outlining a strategy of pressure against North Korea that involved actions across a broad spectrum of government agencies and led to the use of military cyber-capabilities, according to U.S. officials.
As part of the campaign, U.S. Cyber Command targeted hackers in North Korea’s military spy agency, the Reconnaissance General Bureau, by barraging their computer servers with traffic that choked off Internet access.
The Cyber Command operation, which was due to end Saturday, was part of the overall campaign set in motion many months ago. The effects were temporary and not destructive, officials said. Nonetheless, some North Korean hackers griped that lack of access to the Internet was interfering with their work, according to another U.S. official, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a secret operation.
In addition, the president instructed diplomats and officials to bring up North Korea as often as possible to urge other governments to cut all ties to the hermit Stalinist state. The campaign has been remarkably successful, and even more so since Pyongyang has ramped up its ballistic missile testing.
So pervasive is the diplomatic campaign that some governments have found themselves scrambling to find any ties with North Korea. When Vice President Pence called on one country to break relations during a recent overseas visit, officials there reminded him that they never had relations with Pyongyang. Pence then told them, to their own surprise, that they had $2 million in trade with North Korea. Foreign officials, who asked that their country not be identified, described the exchange.
The directive was not made public at the time it was signed, following a policy review in March, because “we were providing every opportunity as a new administration to North Korea to sit down and talk, to take a different approach,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss closed-door policy decisions.
“We made clear the door was open for talks before the president had even signed off on this strategy, but North Korea continued to launch missiles, continued to kidnap Americans to keep as hostages . . . all the things they did when we were early in the administration and sending signals that the door was open to talks.”
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