Discussion of North Korea’s threat to the U.S. mainland has largely been restricted to the effects a direct nuclear blast would have on a major American metropolitan area. With the Pyongyang regime getting ever closer to the goal of miniaturizing a nuclear warhead capable of being matched to their increasingly-effective arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles, it’s only natural that this grave scenario would receive the lion’s share of the attention.
But experts say that the latest threats from Kim Jong Un, which are aimed at the U.S. power grid, could hold darker implications for Americans than even a direct nuclear strike. With North Korea’s state news agency claiming to have the capability of marrying a nuclear weapon with an electromagnetic pulse attack, national security analysts are worried about our collective ability to withstand such an onslaught.
“The biggest danger would be shorting out of the power grid, especially on the East Coast,” Harvey Kazianis of the Center for the National Interest told Fox News. “Imagine a situation where large sections of the U.S. had no power. Imagine New York or Washington D.C. with no power for just a week. The implications would be hard to fathom. The casualty rates would be off the charts.”
By focusing on an EMP attack, North Korea would have the latitude of using missiles that don’t necessarily need to be highly accurate. While a successful nuclear bomb (in terms of casualties) would need to be strategically targeted at a large civilian population, the weapon’s EMP implications are much more wide-ranging. By detonating the bomb at high altitude, the North Koreans could successfully knock millions of Americans off the power grid for weeks, causing untold devastation entirely aside from the blast’s initial impact.
Congressional studies warned of America’s vulnerability to an EMP attack in 2008, but little has been done to shore up our defenses in the meantime.
From Fox News:
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported last year that the federal government had failed to implement an array of recommendations they had made eight years earlier to prevent calamitous outages triggered by an EMP incursion, noting that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Energy (DOE) had not “established a coordinated approach to identifying and implementing key risk management activities to address EMP risks” and that securing the grid was far from the top priority.
In an interview with Breitbart News, former Reagan administration official Frank Gaffney said that North Korea’s EMP capabilities, if they exist, pose an “existential threat” to the United States.
“The consequences of that could be truly nation-ending,” he said. “This is not hyperbole. Electromagnetic pulse, man-induced through these nuclear weapons, is one of the ways most efficiently to take out America. We’ve got to be about the business of protecting this vital, critical infrastructure immediately.”