NORTH Korea’s latest nuclear test missile exploded five seconds after launch yesterday because of an American cyber attack, experts believe.
They say US agents may have infected the hi-tech electronics in tyrant Kim Jong-un’s rocket with an undetectable virus that caused a massive malfunction.
North Korea fired the missile in defiance of President Trump sending a naval task force to the region.
Tyrant Kim Jong-un ordered the provocative launch from near the port city of Sinpo yesterday.
It exploded 4-5 seconds after take-off, humiliating the North Korean despot in the eyes of the world.
Experts later said it was possible the medium-range ballistic rocket, thought to be a Nodong, was brought down by a US cyber attack.
North Korea is forced to import the high-tech electronics used in its missiles.
US agents are believed to have infiltrated the supply chain and may have planted undetectable “malware” viruses inside Kim’s missiles.
As soon as a launch was detected, a signal could have been delivered to the infected component via satellite from the US National Security Agency headquarters in Maryland.
Defence analyst Paul Beaver said: “It is perfectly feasible the US brought down this missile.
“Their cyber warfare capabilities are now highly advanced.
“As soon as military satellites watching Sinpo detected an imminent launch, a team at the National Security Agency would have got to work.
“It’s possible for them to have sent a signal directly to the missile from Maryland which effectively zapped it out of the sky.
“North Korea has had a string of launch failures and it may be no coincidence that they have happened as the US went to cyber war.”
Yesterday’s debacle came a day after grinning Kim showed off missiles and military hardware and thousands of goose-stepping troops at a vast military parade in his capital Pyongyang.
The humiliation could end up costing North Korea’s military commanders dearly.
Kim has a history of punishing failure with terrible retribution, including executing his own officials with anti-aircraft guns.
Kim has also killed hundreds of aides, including his uncle, for disloyalty.
North Korea’s military programme has been dogged by a series of malfunctions and technical failures that have coincided with the US stepping up its cyber war capabilities since 2014.
United States Cyber Command, known as Cybercom, was given a huge funding increase to create 27 “Combat Mission Teams” to attack enemy computers.
Other medium-range North Korean rockets crashed and burned earlier this month and in March.
Last year a Musudan missile fired to mark the anniversary of the birth of Kim’s grandfather Kim Il-sung blew up so soon after take-off it wrecked its launcher.
In November 2015 an attempt to launch a ballistic missile from a submarine ended in failure when the weapon disintegrated underwater.
The US military said yesterday’s launch took place at around dawn but the missile “blew up almost immediately”.
The Pentagon said it was not a long-range Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) and was launched from land rather than ship or sub.
Trump’s naval task force in the region, led by the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, is equipped with rockets capable of intercepting missiles but they were not deployed.
The White House said US Vice President Mike Pence, who is in South Korea for talks about its northern neighbour’s continued aggression, was being fully briefed.
Former British Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind also speculated that the dud missile test could have been the result of a US cyber attack.
Sir Malcolm said: “It could have failed because the system is not competent enough to make it work.
“But there is a very strong belief that the US through cyber methods has been successful on several occasions in interrupting these tests and making them fail.
“If the Americans are able to do that that’s very encouraging.
“There have been previous examples when the Americans have used cyber methods.
“For example with Iran some years ago, they interrupted some of their nuclear enrichment programmes.
“There have also been quite a number of occasions when North Korean tests have failed.
“But don’t get too excited, they’ve also had quite a lot of successful tests.
“They are an advanced country when it comes to their nuclear weapons programme. That still remains a fact — a hard fact.”
Just how big is North Korean threat?
Q. Does North Korea have nuclear weapons?
A.It is thought to have fewer than 20 missiles and four warheads. Each has half the explosive power of US ones in Japan in WW2.
Q.What is different now?
A.The North has been testing missiles which could reach the US. China’s foreign minister has said “conflict could break out at any time”.
Q. Could they really reach Western targets?
A.Not now. But they may have the tech in two or three years.
Q. Could Kim use subs to strike against Britain?
A.A submarine missile launch in 2015 was a flop. Korea’s noisy, diesel subs would also be spotted too easily.
Q. Is the North likely to launch a nuclear attack?
A.No since most experts believe it wouldn’t survive a revenge strike by the more powerful US.
Q. What happens next?
A.National security advisor Lt Gen HR McMaster yesterday said the US and China are working on a range of options on North Korea.
His comments were the first confirmation the powers are working together. The US could make a pre-emptive strike on North missiles.
Defence analyst Lance Gatling said North Korea is vulnerable to cyber attacks because its scientists are incapable of producing their own electronic hardware.
Mr Gatling also said it would be impossible for Kim’s weapons experts to pinpoint exactly why a test launch failed.
He said: “There are many things that can go wrong but it would be impossible to tell from outside if something had affected the internal guidance or control systems.
“It has been openly mentioned that there is a possibility that the North’s supply chain for components has been deliberately infected, and they might never know.” source