SEOUL, South Korea • Hackers apparently broke into at least two of North Korea’s government-run online sites Thursday, as tensions rose on the Korean Peninsula.
The North’s Uriminzokkiri Twitter and Flickr accounts stopped sending out content typical of that posted by the regime in Pyongyang, such as photos of North’s leader Kim Jong Un meeting with military officials.
Instead, a picture posted Thursday on the North’s Flickr site shows Kim’s face with a pig-like snout and a drawing of Mickey Mouse on his chest. Underneath, the text reads: "Threatening world peace with ICBMs and Nuclear weapons/Wasting money while his people starve to death."
Another posting says "We are Anonymous" in white letters against a black background. Anonymous is a name of a hacker activist group. A statement purporting to come from the attackers and widely circulated online said that they had compromised 15,000 user records hosted on Uriminzokkiri.com and other websites. The authenticity of the statement couldn’t be confirmed, but the North’s official website did not open Thursday.
Tweets on the North’s Twitter account said "Hacked" followed by a link to North Korea-related websites. One tweet said "Tango Down" followed by a link to the North’s Flickr page.
North Korea opened its Twitter account in 2010. It has more than 13,000 followers. The North uses the social media to praise its system and leaders and also to repeat commentaries sent out by North’s official Korean Central News Agency.
Tensions have been high in recent days between North and South Korea, and the North’s military warned Thursday that it had been authorized to attack the U.S. North Korea is angry about sanctions against its nuclear program and joint military drills between the U.S. and South Korea.
North Korea has moved a missile with "considerable range" to its east coast, South Korea’s defense minister said Thursday, but he added that there are no signs that the North is preparing for a full-scale conflict.
The North is not believed to have mastered the technology needed to miniaturize nuclear bombs enough to mount them on long-range missiles.
South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin said he did not know the reasons behind the North’s missile movement, and that it "could be for testing or drills."
He dismissed reports in Japanese media that the missile could be a KN-08, which is believed to be a long-range missile that if operable could hit the United States.
Kim told lawmakers at a parliamentary committee meeting that the missile has "considerable range" but not enough to hit the U.S. mainland.
The range he described could refer to a mobile North Korean missile known as the Musudan, believed to have a range of 3,000 kilometers (1,800 miles). That would make Japan and South Korea potential targets — along with U.S. bases in both countries — but there are doubts about the missile’s accuracy.
The Pentagon announced that it will hasten the deployment of a missile defense system to the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam to strengthen regional protection against a possible attack.
Experts say North Korea has not demonstrated that it has accurate long-range missiles. Some suspect that an apparent long-range missile unveiled by the North at a parade last year was actually a mockup.
"From what we know of its existing inventory, North Korea has short- and medium-range missiles that could complicate a situation on the Korean Peninsula (and perhaps reach Japan), but we have not seen any evidence that it has long-range missiles that could strike the continental U.S., Guam or Hawaii," James Hardy, Asia Pacific editor of IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, wrote in a recent analysis.
Kim, the South Korean defense minister, said that if North Korea were preparing for a full-scale conflict, there would be signs such as the mobilization of a number of units, including supply and rear troops, but South Korean military officials have found no such preparations.
"(North Korea’s recent threats) are rhetorical threats. I believe the odds of a full-scale provocation are small," he said. But he added that North Korea might mount a small-scale provocation such as its 2010 shelling of a South Korean island, an attack that killed four people.
North Korea has been railing against joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises that are taking place in South Korea and has expressed anger over tightened U.N. sanctions for its February nuclear test. Many of the threats come in the middle of the night in Asia — daytime for the U.S. audience.
Analysts say the threats are probably efforts to provoke softer policies from South Korea, to win diplomatic talks with Washington and to solidify the image of young North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
At times, North Korea has gone beyond rhetoric.
On Tuesday, it announced it would restart a plutonium reactor it had shut down in 2007. A U.S. research institute said Wednesday that satellite imagery shows that construction needed for the restart has already begun.
For a second day Thursday, North Korean border authorities denied entry to South Koreans who manage jointly run factories in the North Korean city of Kaesong. South Koreans already at the plant were being allowed to return home.Next Page >
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