The Washington Times Daily - - WORLD -

Con­trary to some arms con­trol an­a­lysts, the dan­ger posed by North Korea det­o­nat­ing a nu­clear war­head over the United States and cre­at­ing a de­struc­tive elec­tronic pulse is real.

Wil­liam R. Gra­ham, a de­fense ex­pert and physi­cist, warned in a re­cent ar­ti­cle that a con­gres­sional com­mis­sion that stud­ied the dan­ger posed by elec­tro­mag­netic pulse, known as EMP, could in­flict dev­as­tat­ing da­m­age on the United States.

The com­mis­sion, headed by Mr. Gra­ham, con­cluded 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,” Mr. Gra­ham wrote in the on­line news­let­ter 38 North.

High-al­ti­tude EMP in­volves the det­o­na­tion of a nu­clear weapon at an al­ti­tude of about 20 miles or higher. The blast cre­ates an elec­tronic pulse that can dis­rupt or de­stroy all elec­tron­ics over large ar­eas.

Mr. Gra­ham, in his re­join­der, sought to counter the ar­gu­ments of two arms con­trol an­a­lysts who have dis­missed the North Korean EMP threat as not cred­i­ble.

Jack Liu, a Pen­tagon and in­tel­li­gence con­trac­tor, has ar­gued that a North Korean EMP at­tack is un­likely be­cause Py­ongyang lacks the large-size nu­clear weapons needed for such a strike, and also does not have the needed mis­sile de­liv­ery sys­tem. Jef­frey Lewis, a lib­eral arms con­trol ac­tivist, has also dis­missed a North Korean EMP at­tack as science fic­tion.

“This is the fa­vorite night­mare sce­nario of a small group of very ded­i­cated peo­ple,” he told NPR.

But Mr. Gra­ham ar­gues that a North Korean EMP at­tack poses an ex­is­ten­tial threat to the United States.

He points out that the com­mis­sion of sci­en­tists and ex­perts that stud­ied the prob­lem con­cluded in a 2004 re­port that “cer­tain types of rel­a­tively low-yield nu­clear weapons can be em­ployed to gen­er­ate po­ten­tially cat­a­strophic EMP ef­fects over wide ge­o­graphic ar­eas.”

Also, Mr. Gra­ham said de­signs for vari­ants of such weapons may have been il­lic­itly traf­ficked for more than two decades. Fur­ther­more, an in­tercon­ti­nen­tal mis­sile is not re­quired for such an at­tack.

“An 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,” Mr. Gra­ham wrote. “No

re-en­try 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.”

North Korea also could covertly fire one of its many short-range Scud bal­lis­tic mis­siles from the deck of a freighter off the U.S. coast.

North Korea also could set off an EMP blast from an or­bit­ing satel­lite by de­ploy­ing a nu­cle­ar­armed ver­sion of Py­ongyang’s KMS-3 or KMS-4 satel­lites cur­rently in or­bit.

Mr. Gra­ham said real-world fail­ures of the U.S. elec­tric grid bol­ster the ar­gu­ments of the Pen­tagon, De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity and the con­gres­sional EMP com­mis­sion, all of whom have con­cluded that “a nu­clear EMP at­tack would have cat­a­strophic con­se­quences.”

A re­cent U.S. in­tel­li­gence es­ti­mate con­cluded that North Korea is mov­ing ahead with de­vel­op­ment of a mis­sile ca­pa­ble of reach­ing the United States within the next four years. North Korea also is es­ti­mated to have be­tween 10 and 20 nu­clear weapons.


U.S. se­cu­rity ex­perts worried about North Korea’s in­creas­ing mis­sile tests say that Py­ongyang could in the­ory det­o­nate an EMP de­vice in the at­mos­phere over Amer­ica.

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