Pyongyang reports ‘EMP might’ of nuclear arms
North Korea for the first time this week revealed plans for using its nuclear arms for space-based electronics-disrupting EMP attacks, in addition to direct warhead ground blasts.
The official communist party newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, published a report Monday on “the EMP might of nuclear weapons,” outlining an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack produced by detonating a nuclear warhead in space.
“In general, the strong electromagnetic pulse generated from nuclear bomb explosions between 30 kilometers and 100 kilometers [18.6 miles and 62 miles] above the ground can severely impair electronic devices, electric machines, and electromagnetic grids, or destroy electric cables and safety devices,” said the article authored by Kim Songwon, dean of Kim Chaek University of Technology in Pyongyang.
“The discovery of the electromagnetic pulse as a source of high yield in the high-altitude nuclear explosion test process has given it recognition as an important strike method,” he stated.
The official discussion by North Korea of plans to conduct EMP strikes will likely fuel debate over the threat. Former CIA Director James Woolsey has said North Korea is capable of orbiting an EMP nuclear weapon in a satellite.
Senior administration officials said initial assessments of the nuclear blast in northeastern North Korea indicate it was the largest test detonation so far, and much larger than an underground test carried out last year. It was the regime’s sixth nuclear test.
U.S. nuclear technicians have not made a definitive conclusion about the specifics of the device. Specialists are trying to determine if the test involved a hydrogen bomb, as Pyongyang asserted, or a device designed for EMP attack. They are also assessing whether the test used boosted fission technology.
Hydrogen bombs are advanced devices that use a two-stage explosion process to produce a massive explosion. Boosted fission devices are less sophisticated technologically and require more nuclear fuel.
Also, the large explosion—perhaps more than 100 kilotons, or the equivalent of 100,000 tons of TN—likely produced significant venting of radioactive particles into the air.
Special U.S. intelligence aircraft, including the WC-135 nuclear “sniffer” jets, are conducting flights near the test zone to gather samples of particles from the test.
Kim, the North Korean technical university dean, stated that high-altitude explosions can be conducted in the stratosphere or in space where the blast wave is limited by the lack of air or the thinness of air.
“In explosions occurring at such altitudes, large amounts of electrons are released as a result of ionization reactions of high-energy instant gamma rays and other radioactive rays,” he said. “These electrons form a strong electromagnetic pulse (EMP) through interaction with the geomagnetic field.”
“The detonation would create a strong electric field of 100,000 volts per meter when it approaches the ground and “that is how it destroys communications facilities and electricity grids,” the report said.
The EMP report was published Monday, a day after the same state-run outlet reported on a visit by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to a nuclear weapons facility that also mentioned plans for using nuclear weapons in EMP attacks.
Peter Pry, a former CIA analyst who has been active in urging greater defenses against EMP attack, said a congressional commission on EMP has been warning for years about the North Korean EMP threat.
“EMP attack, by blacking-out the national electric grid and other life-sustaining critical infrastructures, could kill far more people than nuclear blasting a city,” Pry said.
According to Pry, the Congressional EMP Commission warned that nationwide blackout and subsequent disruption from an EMP strike could kill 90 percent of the U.S. population through starvation, disease, and societal chaos.
“North Korea knows this, which is why state media describes their new nuclear warhead as capable of both blasting cities and EMP,” he said.
William R. Graham, chairman of the commission, also has warned that North Korea’s two satellites orbiting over the U.S. could be armed with EMP weapons and detonated over the United States or U.S. allies.
Pry said despite the increasing danger from EMP, the commission will cease functioning Sept. 20 unless its charter is renewed.
“No one at the Pentagon or DHS has asked for the EMP commission to be extended,” he said, adding that the commission has produced the best expertise on the threat.
Full article: Korea Nuclear Test Furthers EMP Bomb (Washington Free Beacon)