President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has described the power outages that affected the whole of Taiwan on Tuesday last week as a “national security issue.”
Maybe she meant that in a broad sense, but what if it really was a national security crisis?
The blackouts took place on the anniversary of Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II, just as North Korea was threatening to fire four intercontinental ballistic missiles toward Guam. If Pyongyang were to do such a thing and the missiles landed on Guam or in the sea around it, even if they did not have nuclear warheads, US President Donald Trump would have to order an immediate retaliation.
In geopolitical terms, North and South Korea are buffer states that help prevent conflict between the US, Japan, China and Russia. These powers will not allow a hot war to break out on the Korean Peninsula, nor will they allow the two Koreas to unite. It is therefore unlikely that Trump’s response would involve mass troop movements — it would more likely be a decapitation attack targeting North Korea’s top leaders.
According to this month’s issue of the Japanese magazine Bungeishunju, the US Pacific Command constantly tracks the whereabouts of North Korea’s top leaders, including supreme leader Kim Jong-un. As such, the US military can launch an attack to wipe out senior North Korean leaders as soon as the White House orders them to do so.
From Aug. 11 to 13, Y-8DZ surveillance planes from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force flew around Taiwan for an unprecedented three days in a row. Could there be some unknown reason for this?
The mysterious power outages last week affected the whole of Taiwan, including the Boai Special Zone around the Presidential Office Building.
Were Taiwan’s political and military centers affected? Was the early-warning radar at the summit of Leshan (樂山) blinded?
When the US launched its war against Iraq, a big power outage was followed by heavy bombing.
In Taiwan, major power cuts could be followed by a decapitation attack on the nation’s military and political centers.
If the power grid and telecommunications suffer widespread malfunctions and only work sporadically, the government would be unable to keep the public informed.
In combination with sleeper agents, this would allow an enemy to launch a quick decapitation attack without assembling vast numbers of troops and logistical support.
Government officials have said that the power outages were caused by human error on the part of CPC Corp, Taiwan, which runs the Datan gas-fired power plant.
However, given the extraordinary scale of the power failures, one cannot rule out the possibility of a complex or modular attack. That could be done with malware such as Industroyer, also known as Crashoverride, which can disrupt industrial operations without manual control.
In December last year, Industroyer gained instant notoriety when it knocked out a fifth of the electric power grid of the Ukrainian capital, Kiev.
Experts say the virus can knock out part of a nation’s power grid for several days, but it is not yet capable of taking down an entire grid.
Is that not precisely what happened in last week’s power outages?
Taiwan Power Co’s ability to restore power in four hours could serve as a parameter for a real attack.
Following the power cuts, perhaps the handbook for the annual Yushan (玉山) war games, which involve government officials as well as the armed forces, needs to be rewritten.
HoonTing is a political commentator.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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