President Donald Trump appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation” in a broadcast that aired on Sunday. He refrained from answering host John Dickerson’s question as to whether or not the United States caused the failures of various launches of North Korea's missiles. "I'd rather not discuss it. But perhaps they're just not very good missiles," said Trump. Pressed further on possible US sabotage of North Korea's missiles, Trump did not deny it. "I just don't want to discuss it."
 
While American presidents have in past vocally denied engaging in cyber attacks on other countries, Trump kept his cards closer to his vest and would only reiterate his preference for not signaling his military intentions or plans.
 
According to the New York Times, however, there has been a secret operation to sabotage North Korea's nuclear-missile program over the last three years. Dr. Ken Geers, a cybersecurity expert, told Business Insider that cyber-operations such as the one being mounted against North Korea are common. Geers said that "within military intelligence spaces this is what they do." He added, "In the internet age, that means hacking."
 
Even while North Korea's internal computer networks are well insulated against external threats and do not connect to the internet, surpassing its safeguards is not insurmountable. Geers said that North Korea’s computers need not be connected to the internet in order for hackers to intervene. Despite North Korea’s highly restricted internet, Geers said, "If it ever came to cyberwar between the US and North Korea, it would be an overwhelming victory for the West."
 
Geers said. "But if war came, you'd see Cyber Command wipe out most other countries' pretty quickly."
 
North Korea may have more than U.S.-lead hackers to worry about. After North Korea’s most recent abortive ballistic missile launch, President Trump accused North Korea of "disrespecting the wishes of China." China is the hermit nation’s principal trading harbor and recently slowed down its purchase of coal. In addition, Trump has been urging the Chinese government to persuade its ally to halt its ballistic missile tests. 
 
Trump tweeted  "North Korea disrespected the wishes of China & its highly respected President when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad!"  Trump has warned of a "major, major conflict" with North Korea over its nuclear ambitions and missile tests. He said that while "love to solve things (the North Korean problem) diplomatically," "it's very difficult." For his part, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday called on the UN Security Council to put economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea. In London, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe said North Korea is a threat to world stability and is a threat to his country. He said: "Despite strong warnings by the international community, North Korea today went through its ballistic missile launch...This is absolutely not acceptable. We strongly condemn such acts."
 
On Friday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said to the UN Security Council that the world must keep its commitment to denuclearization. No matter what happens, "we should never waiver in our commitment to this goal," he said. Wang claimed that his country opposes the North Korea’s research, development, and possession of nuclear weapons, and it urges the country to stop its missile development, Wang said. North Korea should "demonstrate political wisdom" to work constructively toward denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.



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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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