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Seoul ups information security level on Kim’s death

Armed forces reinforce cyber security, monitoring of movement


South Korean military’s information operations condition or INFOCON level was raised to four following the announcement of Kim Jong-il’s death, the Ministry of National Defense revealed Tuesday.

In a report to the National Assembly’s defense committee, the ministry revealed that INFOCON level was raised to four, from the base level of five, at 2 p.m. on Monday, two hours after Pyongyang announced Kim’s death.

The change was made in light of the possibility that North Korean entities could mount cyber attacks amid the confusion caused by Kim’s death.

As with defense readiness condition, or DEFCON, INFOCON is divided into five levels with five being the ground state under normal conditions.

With INFOCON raised to level four, all branches of the armed forces reinforced cyber security personnel, and increased cooperation with the National Cyber Security Center.

In addition, the computer emergency response teams of the Air Force, Army, Navy and the Defense Security Command are now on 24-hour alert.

Along with INFOCON, the South Korean military has been on increased alert since the announcement of Kim’s death.
Soldiers of the 22nd Infrantry Division in Gangwon Province stand guard after the South Korean military raised alert levels in the wake of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s death. (Yonhap News)
Soldiers of the 22nd Infrantry Division in Gangwon Province stand guard after the South Korean military raised alert levels in the wake of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s death. (Yonhap News)

All branches of the armed forces have been on the second-highest level of alert since the announcement, and additional RF-4 jets and other reconnaissance equipment have been deployed to reinforce monitoring of the North’s military.

The office of the Joint Chief of Staff is also said to have requested the United States Forces Korea to monitor North Korea with U-2 high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft and spy satellites with greater frequency.

However, DEFCON, and Watch Condition, or WATCHCON, levels are being maintained at usual levels.

In South Korea DEFCON 4 ― the second-lowest level of readiness ― is the usual level, while WATCHCON 3 maintained under normal conditions.

Regarding movements in the North Korean military, the Ministry of National Defense said that no unusual developments indicative of action against the South have been detected.

The ministry, however, said that some North Korean units engaged in winter exercises have returned to base and that guard has been increased around military bases.

Regarding general developments in North Korea, the Defense Ministry said that Pyongyang was concentrating on encouraging the atmosphere of mourning and facilitating solidarity around the new leadership headed by Kim Jong-un, citing North Korean news broadcasts.

Regarding North Korea’s nuclear capabilities, Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin said that “much preparation” is being made regarding the issue.

“Nuclear management is one of the important tasks in preparing against sudden changes in North Korea,” Kim said to the National Assembly’s defense committee.

He added that the South Korean military is making sufficient preparations to respond to sudden developments, and that the ministry will work on setting up a hotline with China to increase the exchange of information with the country.

In addition to tightening South’s military readiness, Seoul’s top defense officials have been in touch with their U.S. counterparts regarding Kim’s death and possible developments.

In the early hours of Tuesday morning Kim held a phone conversation with U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, while generals Jung Seung-jo and Martin Dempsey, the respective chairmen of the South Korean and U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke on the phone late Monday.

According to the Ministry of National Defense, the defense and military leaders of the two nations agreed to maintain strong military readiness and collaborate closely on related developments.

By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)
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