North Korea Nuclear EMP Attack: An Existential Threat

We here at the American Civil Defense Association felt this was important to share;

Statement for the Record

October 12, 2017

North Korea Nuclear EMP Attack: An Existential Threat

During the Cold War, major efforts were undertaken by the Department of Defense to assure that the U.S. national command authority and U.S. strategic forces could survive and operate after an EMP attack. However, no major efforts were then thought necessary to protect critical national
infrastructures, relying on nuclear deterrence to protect them. With the development of small nuclear arsenals and long-range missiles by new, radical U.S. adversaries, beginning with North Korea, the threat of a nuclear EMP attack against the U.S. becomes one of the few ways that such a country could inflict devastating damage to the United States. It is critical, therefore, that the U.S. national leadership address the EMP threat as a critical and existential issue, and give a high priority to assuring the leadership is engaged and the necessary steps are taken to protect the
country from EMP.

By way of background, the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack was established by Congress in 2001 to advise the Congress, the President, Department of Defense and other departments and agencies of the U.S.
Government on the nuclear EMP threat to military systems and civilian critical infrastructures.

The EMP Commission was re-established in 2015 with its charter broadened to include natural EMP from solar storms, all manmade EMP threats, cyber-attack, sabotage and Combined-Arms Cyber Warfare. The EMP Commission charter gives it access to all relevant classified and unclassified data and the power to levy analysis upon the Department of Defense. On September 30, 2017, the Department of Defense, after withholding a significant part of the
monies allocated by Congress to support the work of the EMP Commission for the entirety of 2016, terminated funding the EMP Commission. In the same month, North Korea detonated an H-Bomb that it plausibly describes as capable of “super-powerful EMP” attack and released a technical report “The EMP Might of Nuclear Weapons” accurately describing what Russia and China call a “Super-EMP” weapon.

Neither the Department of Defense nor the Department of Homeland Security has asked Congress to continue the EMP Commission. The House version of the National Defense Authorization Act includes a provision that would replace the existing EMP Commission with new Commissioners. Yet the existing EMP Commission comprises the nation’s foremost experts who have been officially or unofficially continuously engaged trying to advance national EMP preparedness for 17 years. And today, as the EMP Commission has long warned, the nation faces a potentially imminent and existential threat of nuclear EMP attack from North Korea. Recent events have proven the EMP Commission’s critics wrong about other highly important aspects of the nuclear missile threat from North Korea:

–Just six months ago, most experts thought North Korea’s nuclear arsenal was primitive, some academics claiming it had as few as 6 A-Bombs. Now the intelligence community reportedly estimates North Korea has 60 nuclear weapons.
–Just six months ago, most experts thought North Korea’s ICBMs were fake, or if real could not strike the U.S. mainland. Now the intelligence community reportedly estimates North Korea’s ICBMs can strike Denver and Chicago, and perhaps the entire United States.

–Just six months ago, most experts thought North Korea was many years away from an HBomb. Now it appears North Korea has H-Bombs comparable to sophisticated U.S. two-stage thermonuclear weapons.

–Just six months ago, most experts claimed North Korean ICBMs could not miniaturize an ABomb or design a reentry vehicle for missile delivery. Now the intelligence community reportedly assesses North Korea has miniaturized nuclear weapons, and has developed reentry vehicles for missile delivery, including by ICBMs that can strike the U.S. (1)

After massive intelligence failures grossly underestimating North Korea’s long-range missile capabilities, number of nuclear weapons, warhead miniaturization, and proximity to an H-Bomb, the biggest North Korean threat to the U.S. remains unacknowledged—nuclear EMP attack.

North Korea confirmed the EMP Commission’s assessment by testing an H-Bomb that could make a devastating EMP attack, and in its official public statement: “The H-Bomb, the explosive power of which is adjustable from tens of kilotons to hundreds of kilotons, is a multi-functional
thermonuclear weapon with great destructive power which can be detonated even at high altitudes for super-powerful EMP attack according to strategic goals.” (2)

(1)Joby Warwick, Ellen Nakashima, Anna Fifield, “North Korea Is No Making Missile-Ready Nuclear Weapons, U.S. Analysts Say” Washington Post, August 18, 2017; Michelle Ye Hee Lee, “North Korean Nuclear Test May Have Been
Twice As Strong As First Thought” Washington Post, September 13, 2017; Jack Kim, Soyoung Kim, “North Korea Says It Has Developed A More Advanced Hydrogen Bomb That Can Be Loaded Onto An ICBM” Business Insider, September 2, 2017; NBC News, “’A Big Hoax’: Experts Say North Korea Showing Off Missiles That Can’t Fly” August 15, 2013.(2)

Bill Gertz, “Korea Nuclear Test Furthers EMP Bomb” Washington Free Beacon, September 6, 2017. (3) As noted earlier, Pyongyang also released a technical report accurately describing a “SuperEMP” weapon. (3)
Just six months ago, some academics dismissed EMP Commission warnings and even, literally, laughed on National Public Radio at the idea North Korea could make an EMP attack.

Primitive and “Super-EMP” Nuclear Weapons are Both EMP Threats
The EMP Commission finds that even primitive, low-yield nuclear weapons are such a significant EMP threat that rogue states, like North Korea, or terrorists may well prefer using a nuclear weapon for EMP attack, instead of destroying a city: “Therefore, terrorists or state actors that possess relatively unsophisticated missiles armed with nuclear weapons may well calculate that, instead of destroying a city or military base, they may obtain the greatest political-military utility from one or a few such weapons by using them—or threatening their use—in an EMP attack.”(4)

The EMP Commission 2004 Report warns: “Certain types of relatively low-yield nuclear weapons can be employed to generate potentially catastrophic EMP effects over wide geographic areas, and designs for variants of such weapons may have been illicitly trafficked for a quartercentury.” (5)

In 2004, two Russian generals, both EMP experts, warned the EMP Commission that the design for Russia’s Super-EMP warhead, capable of generating high intensity EMP fields over 100,000 volts per meter, was “accidentally” transferred to North Korea. They also said that due to “brain
drain,” Russian scientists were in North Korea, as were Chinese and Pakistani scientists according to the Russians, helping with the North’s missile and nuclear weapon programs. In 2009, South Korean military intelligence told their press that Russian scientists are in North Korea helping develop an EMP nuclear weapon. In 2013, a Chinese military commentator stated North Korea has Super-EMP nuclear weapons.(6)

Super-EMP weapons are low-yield and designed to produce not a big kinetic explosion, but rather a high level of gamma rays, which generates the high-frequency E1 EMP that is most damaging to the broadest range of electronics. North Korean nuclear tests, including the first in 2006, whose occurrence was predicted to the EMP Commission two years in advance by the two (3) Ibid. Kim Song-won, Dean of Kim Chaek University of  technology “The EMP Might of Nuclear Weapons” Rodong Sinmun, Pyongyang, September 4, 2017. (4)

Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack, Executive Report, 2004, p. 2. (5) Ibid.(6)

U.S. Senate, Hearing, Statement for the Record, Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, “Foreign Views of Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack” testimony on behalf of EMP Commission before the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology, and Homeland Security, Senate Committee on the Judiciary (Washington, D.C.: March 9, 2005); Kim Min-sek and Yoo Jee-ho, “Military Source Warns of North’s EMP Bomb” JoonAng Daily (September 2, 2009); Li Daguang, “North
Korean Electromagnetic Attack Threatens South Korea’s Information Warfare Capabilities” Tzu Chin, No. 260 (June 1, 2012) pp. 44-45. (4)

Russian EMP experts, mostly have yields consistent with the size of a Super-EMP weapon. The Russian generals’ accurate prediction about when North Korea would perform its first nuclear test, and of a yield consistent with a Super-EMP weapon, indicates their warning about a North Korean Super-EMP weapon should be taken very seriously.

EMP Threat From Satellites While most analysts are fixated on when in the future North Korea will develop highly reliable intercontinental missiles, guidance systems, and reentry vehicles capable of striking a U.S. city,
the threat here and now from EMP is largely ignored. EMP attack does not require an accurate guidance system because the area of effect, having a radius of hundreds or thousands of kilometers, is so large. No reentry vehicle is needed because the warhead is detonated at high altitude, above the atmosphere. Missile reliability matters little because only one missile has to work to make an EMP attack against an entire nation.

North Korea could make an EMP attack against the United States by launching a short-range missile off a freighter or submarine or by lofting a warhead to 30 kilometers burst height by balloon. While such lower-altitude EMP attacks would not cover the whole U.S. mainland, as would an attack at higher-altitude (300 kilometers), even a balloon-lofted warhead detonated at 30 kilometers altitude could blackout the Eastern Electric Power Grid that supports most of the population and generates 75 percent of U.S. electricity. Or an EMP attack might be made by a North Korean satellite, right now.

A Super-EMP weapon could be relatively small and lightweight, and could fit inside North Korea’s Kwangmyongsong-3 (KMS-3) and Kwangmyongsong-4 (KMS-4) satellites. These two satellites presently orbit over the United States, and over every other nation on Earth–
demonstrating, or posing, a potential EMP threat against the entire world.
North Korea’s KMS-3 and KMS-4 satellites were launched to the south on polar trajectories and passed over the United States on their first orbit. Pyongyang launched KMS-4 on February 7, 2017, shortly after its fourth illegal nuclear test on January 6, that began the present protracted
nuclear crisis with North Korea.

The south polar trajectory of KMS-3 and KMS-4 evades U.S. Ballistic Missile Early Warning Radars and National Missile Defenses, resembling a Russian secret weapon developed during the Cold War, called the Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS) that would have used a nuclear-armed satellite to make a surprise EMP attack on the United States.(7)

Ambassador Henry Cooper, former Director of the U.S. Strategic Defense Initiative, and a preeminent expert on missile defenses and space weapons, has written numerous articles warning (7) Miroslav Gyurosi, The Soviet Fractional Orbital Bombardment System Program, (January 2010) Technical Report APA-TR-2010-010. (5) about the potential North Korean EMP threat from their satellites. For example, on September 20, 2016 Ambassador Cooper wrote: U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) interceptors are designed to intercept a few North Korean ICBMs that approach the United States over the North Polar region. But current U.S. BMD systems are not arranged to defend against even a single ICBM that approaches the United
States from over the South Polar region, which is the direction toward which North Korea launches its satellites…This is not a new idea. The Soviets pioneered and tested just such a specific capability decades ago—we call it a Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS)…So, North Korea doesn’t need an ICBM to create this existential threat. It could use its
demonstrated satellite launcher to carry a nuclear weapon over the South Polar region and detonate it…over the United States to create a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse (HEMP)…The result could be to shut down the U.S. electric power grid for an indefinite period, leading to the death within a year of up to 90 percent of all Americans—as the EMP Commission
testified over eight years ago.(8)

Former NASA rocket scientist James Oberg visited North Korea’s Sohae space launch base, witnessed elaborate measures undertaken to conceal space launch payloads, and concludes in a 2017 article that the EMP threat from North Korea’s satellites should be taken seriously: …there have been fears expressed that North Korea might use a satellite to carry a small nuclear warhead into orbit and then detonate it over the United States for an EMP strike. These concerns seem extreme and require an astronomical scale of irrationality on the part of the regime. The most frightening aspect, I’ve come to realize, is that exactly such a scale of insanity is now evident in the rest of their ‘space program.” That doomsday scenario, it now seems, has been plausible enough to compel the United States to take active measures to insure that no North Korean satellite, unless thoroughly inspected before launch, be allowed to reach orbit and ever overfly the United States.(9) 

Kim Jong-Un has threatened to reduce the United States to “ashes” with “nuclear thunderbolts” and threatened to retaliate for U.S. diplomatic and military pressure by “ordering officials and scientists to complete preparations for a satellite launch as soon as possible” amid “the enemies’(8) Ambassador Henry F. Cooper, “Whistling Past The Graveyard…” High Frontier (September 20, 2016) See also: On up to
90% U.S. fatalities from an EMP attack, during a congressional hearing, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett asked me if such high fatalities could result, and I responded: “We don’t have experience with losing the infrastructure in a country with 300 million people, most of whom don’t live in a way that provides for their own food and other needs. We can go back to an era when people did live like that. That would be—10 percent would be 30 million people, and that is probably the range where we could survive as a basically rural economy.” U.S. House of Representatives, Hearing,
“Threat Posed By Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack” Committee on Armed Services (Washington, D.C.: July 10, 2008), p. 9.(9)

Jim Oberg, Space Review (February 6, 2017) a 2017 article 6
harsh sanctions and moves to stifle” the North.10 North Korean press (for example in Rodong Sinmun; March 7, 2016) asserts readiness for “any form of war” and includes their satellite with “strengthening of the nuclear deterrent and legitimate artificial satellite launch, which are our fair
and square self-defensive choice.” Moreover: “The nuclear [weapons] we possess are, precisely, the country’s sovereignty, right to live, and dignity. Our satellite that cleaves through space is the proud sign that unfolds the future of the most powerful state in the world.” The same article, like many others, warns North Korea makes “constant preparations so that we can fire the nuclear warheads, which have been deployed for actual warfare for the sake of national defense, at any moment!”

An earlier generation immediately understood the alarming strategic significance of Sputnik in 1957, yet few today understand or even care about the strategic significance of North Korea’s satellites, perhaps because of widespread ignorance about EMP.

Addressing Misinformation:
Misinformation about EMP abounds in the media, and even in many allegedly serious studies, from uninformed persons posturing as experts, who have no competency in EMP. False claims are often made that the EMP threat is “not real” but merely theoretical and greatly overblown.(11)

For example:….

(Read entire address here.)



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