North Korea has now added cyber attack capabilities to its arsenal of threatening weapons and this year, could offer plenty of opportunities for military provocations from Pyongyang, starting with a controversial rocket launch next month, senior US defense officials said on Wednesday.
In a sign North Korea was moving forward with its announced plan to launch a rocket in mid-April, a US official confirmed the US had detected activity that looked much like launch preparations, at a facility near the country's northwestern border with China.
The US military officials told the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee that North Korea's large conventional military, nuclear weapons programmes, ballistic missiles and newer capabilities in cyber warfare all posed a threat to the US and its allies in the Asia-Pacific region.
Army general James Thurman, the commander of US Forces in Korea, told the panel that a skilled team of hackers was the latest addition to North Korea's capabilities that also included chemical and biological weapons.
He added such attacks would be ideal for North Korea, provided the regime meant to attack (South Korean) and US interests without attribution and had been increasingly employed against a variety of targets military, governmental, educational and commercial institutions and others.
Thurman, who leads 28,000 US troops in South Korea told the panel that the power transfer following the death in December of Kim Jong-il appeared to be proceeding smoothly with significant Chinese political and economic support.