Return to

June 21, 2018
Notes from the Pentagon

North Korea on summit
A review of North Korean state media provides key insights about Pyongyang’s approach to the issue of denuclearization.

Based on a careful reading of official reports after the Singapore summit, North Korea appears to be signaling domestically that the government will pursue an arms agreement that the regime hopes eventually will lead to lifting economic sanctions. State-controlled North Korean propaganda outlets featured the summit in Singapore between President Trump and Kim Jong-un as a “great event” that promoted what was described as reconciliation, peace, stability and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula.

On the topic of North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons, the ruling Korean Workers’ Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun, however, carefully referred to denuclearization in the context of the entire peninsula and not solely by North Korea. The newspaper stated in its report on the summit that Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim agreed to step-by-step “simultaneous” actions in the process of eliminating nuclear weapons.

Nevertheless, in a sign of official sincerity about the impending arms control process, the propaganda organ, which reports only official policies, quoted Mr. Kim as saying Pyongyang and Washington should agree to avoid conflict while taking “legal and institutional measures” for denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.

The newspaper noted that Mr. Trump voiced “understanding” about U.S.-South Korean military exercises being an irritant to better ties, and that the president agreed to halt the maneuvers as the dialogue continues. Joint military exercises that had been set for August in South Korea were put on hold last week.

Rodong Sinmun also reported that Mr. Trump offered Mr. Kim an unspecified “security guarantee” and the possible lifting of sanctions based on progress in improving bilateral ties. Sponsored Content

The newspaper reported June 13 on the joint statement at the summit and Mr. Kim’s reaffirmation of the “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

It was only the second time Mr. Kim has publicly expressed backing for complete denuclearization. The North Korean dictator first said he supported a total elimination of nuclear arms in the April 27 declaration made at Panmunjom village in the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea.

The detailed report on the summit included four pages of coverage and photos out of the six-page paper, including publication of the entire joint agreement signed by the two leaders in Singapore.

The banner headline read: “Meeting of the century pioneers a new history of North Korea-U.S. relations; First North Korea-U.S. summit meeting and talks in history held.”

The shift in propaganda is a sharp divergence from past official statements, which warned of turning the United States into a “sea of fire” and that the North’s nuclear weapons would enable “the final victory over the United States.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he expects to travel to Pyongyang in the near future to hold follow-up talks.

The Pentagon stated in a recent report to Congress on the North Korean military that Pyongyang is unlikely to ever give up its nuclear forces, which include new long-range missiles and scores of nuclear weapons. The report noted that North Korea passed legislation in 2013 on “consolidating position as a nuclear weapons state,” something the Pentagon said was “another signal that it does not intend to give up its pursuit of nuclear development.”

The Pentagon’s Joint Staff has declassified for the first time its doctrine for conducting cyberwarfare. The military publication “Cyberspace Operations” was released June 8 and included a change in format from entirely secret to an unclassified report with an attached classified annex.

The revised doctrine also reflects the recent elevation of Cyber Command from a subcommand to a full combat command.

The report identifies offensive cyberoperations by the military as missions that use digital “fires” in projecting power in and through cyberspace.

Offensive cyberattacks “may exclusively target adversary cyberspace functions or create first-order effects in cyberspace to initiate carefully controlled cascading effects into the physical domains to affect weapon systems, [command and control] processes, logistics nodes, high-value targets, etc.,” the report said.

As in the physical domain, some cyberattacks will be tantamount to physical attacks, causing damage or destruction to enemy systems.

Additionally, cyberattacks also produce “denial effects, such as degradation or disruption short of destruction, or manipulation of computer networks that produce denial effects — such as shutting down electric power or other critical infrastructure.”

Unlike clandestine cyberspying, “cyberspace attack actions will be apparent to system operators or users, either immediately or eventually, since they remove some user functionality,” the report said. “Cyberspace attack actions are a form of fires” carried out as part of military missions and coordinated with other government agencies and carefully synchronized with other attacks.

The report describes cyberattack “fires” as strikes that often produce little or no physical destruction. But the attacks can create unintended consequences.

“Modification or destruction of computers that control physical processes can lead to cascading effects (including collateral effects) in the physical domains,” the report said.

An example would be shutting down a portion of an enemy electrical grid where a military attack is planned, and causing a larger blackout resulting from a cascading power failure.

For military maneuvers in cyberspace, the Joint Staff notes that cyberattacks require positioning digital forces, sensors and defenses inside U.S. networks. In enemy computer systems, cyberwarriors first need to gain access to target networks in preparing for attacks in a future conflict.

The report describes the maneuvering terrain of cyberspace as analogous to traditional battlefields, where troops must secure a presence — sometimes alongside adversaries.

“It is possible for the U.S. and an adversary to occupy the same terrain or use the same process in cyberspace, potentially without knowing of the other’s presence,” the report said, noting that key obstacles include firewalls and port blocks.

To conceal military cyberattacks, U.S. forces will utilize hidden internet protocol addresses and password-protected zones.

Military observation points for cyberwar will include major internet trunk lines.

Key threats for cyberwar include nation-states, nonstate actors, individual or small group threats, and accidents and natural hazards.

The threat from nation-states like China and Russia is “potentially the most dangerous because of nation-state access to resources, personnel and time that may not be available to other actors,” the report said. “Nation-states may conduct operations directly or may outsource them to third parties, including front companies, patriotic hackers, or other surrogates, to achieve their objectives.”

A group of 26 members of Congress wrote to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos this week warning that Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies has infiltrated 50 U.S. universities in ways that threaten national security.

Chinese officials are “using Huawei to position themselves to steal American research through so-called ‘research partnerships’ with American universities to exploit the openness of our system of higher education,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican who helped organize the letter.

“Huawei and other Chinese state-directed telecommunications companies shouldn’t be allowed to operate in the United States, and we should put them out of business by denying them the ability to buy U.S. semi-conductors,” the senator added.

Rep. Jim Banks, an Indiana Republican who also helped draft the letter, warned that allowing Huawei to operate on American campuses poses a danger.

“Our intelligence community has warned about this exact type of national security threat for over a decade,” Mr. Banks said. “Huawei is a state-directed entity that uses academic surveillance to spy and collect intelligence on America and our allies. Make no mistake, Huawei cannot be trusted and the Department of Education should work closely with the FBI to address China’s attempts to infiltrate America’s intellectual institutions.”

The letter asks Ms. DeVos to investigate Huawei’s research partnerships and report to Congress.

The letter included a chart from the National Intelligence Council that states American universities are a main “toolkit” for Beijing’s foreign technology collection.

  • Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter via @BillGertz.

  • Return to