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Inside the Ring: North Korean EMP
Question of the Day
Recent satellite navigation jamming by North Korea’s military near the demilitarized zone and a report in a Chinese journal are raising new fears that Pyongyang is developing electromagnetic pulse weapons.
A communist-owned monthly journal in Hong Kong reported last month that the GPS jamming of aircraft navigation systems that was traced to North Korea is part of asymmetric warfare capabilities of the reclusive communist state.
“North Korea has always planned to develop small-scale nuclear warheads,” the article said. “On this foundation, they could develop electromagnetic pulse (EMP) bombs in order to paralyze the weapons systems of the South Korean military — most of which involve electronic equipment — when necessary.”
In fact, Chinese analysts believe North Korea is working on small nuclear warheads that could produce “super-EMP bombs,” the report said. “Once North Korea achieves the actual war deployment of EMP weapons, the power of its special forces would doubtlessly be redoubled,” the report said.
EMP bombs emit high-powered electronic magnetic waves that destroy or severely disrupt all electronics within a large area of the waves.
The bursts were first discovered during above-ground nuclear tests and several states are now developing EMP weapons that produce the same shock waves without having to produce a nuclear blast.
“Currently, many nations such as the United States and England, and including North Korea, are researching and developing EMP bombs,” the report said.
“A number of experts have analyzed the matter and believe that North Korea’s EMP studies have reached a rather high level. Even though there are differences between GPS-jamming radio waves and EMP, they both use electromagnetic waves.”
Peter V. Pry, a former CIA official who is executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security that advises Congress on EMP and other threats to the critical infrastructures, said the Chinese article on North Korean EMP highlights the problem of what the U.S. could face in the aftermath of a nuclear EMP attack by Iran or terrorists.
An EMP attack would be worse than the recent East Coast power disruptions that closed businesses and federal agencies, disrupted emergency services and communications, caused massive food spoilage, blacked out gas pumps and traffic signals and left millions without air conditioning during a heat wave.
Mr. Pry said the blackout was minor compared to a nuclear or natural EMP disaster.
“Rogue states or terrorists armed with a single nuclear weapon detonated at high-altitude over the United States could cause a protracted blackout nationwide, that would last months or years and might even be unrecoverable,” he said in an interview.
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About the Author
Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.
He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.
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