U.S. Likely Not Behind North Korea’s Botched Missile Launch

Experts say the United States is unlikely to have been behind North Korea’s botched missile launch last week, despite rampant speculation that the explosion was the result of an Obama-era cyber sabotage program.

The spectre of U.S. interference in the secretive missile program has shaken North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong Un, and reportedly led to a fierce internal spyhunt.

U.S. officials have remained mum on the possibility that the military used cyber to disrupt the launch. But experts say the explosion was more likely caused by internal failure in a complex R&D process with limited resources.

“North Korea is pushing really hard to pursue ballistic missiles. Any accelerated program experiences many failures,” said Joseph Bermudez, an analyst for 38 North, a program of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

“The probability is higher for this to be failures produced by an aggressive program with limited resources.”

Former President Obama in 2014 reportedly ordered the Pentagon to ramp up its secret cyber and electronic operations against North Korea’s missile program to disrupt test launches in their opening seconds.

Since then, a staggering 88 percent of tests of North Korea’s intermediate-range missile, the Musudan, have failed, according to The New York Times.

The frequency of those launch failures suggests a U.S. effort, if it is being carried out, is working. But without the ability to do forensics analysis, it’s nearly impossible to determine what caused any given failure. It could be shoddy materials and poor engineering, or a piece of U.S. malware.

In the specific case of Sunday’s explosion, experts say there’s little that suggests cyber meddling.

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SOURCE: KATIE BO WILLIAMS AND MORGAN CHALFANT
The Hill