News / USA

    US Defenseless Against North Korean EMP Threat

    This composite image made available by NASA and assembled by data acquired from the Suomi NPP satellite in April and October 2012 uses the satellite’s Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), to show the U.S's lights at night.
    This composite image made available by NASA and assembled by data acquired from the Suomi NPP satellite in April and October 2012 uses the satellite’s Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), to show the U.S's lights at night.

    The electric grid in the United States remains largely unprotected, according to a longtime adviser to Congress on national security issues.

    Peter Vincent Pry told VOA he believes North Korea is ready to attempt a strike on the U.S. electric grid using an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP). Pry said North Korea practiced an EMP strike against the U.S. last year when it orbited a satellite at the optimal altitude and trajectory to carry out such an attack.

    Pry is in the northern city of Minneapolis to brief the National Council of State Legislatures this week on the EMP threat. He told VOA that three U.S. states - Arizona, Maine and Virginia - have passed legislation trying to guard against a lengthy power outage following an EMP.

    Pry was a member of the former Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack (2001-2008). He also is executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, a congressional advisory board dedicated to achieving protection of the United States from electromagnetic pulse and other threats.

    An electromagnetic pulse (or disturbance) is a short burst of electromagnetic energy that can be natural or man-made. EMP interference generated by lightning, for example, can damage electronic equipment. At very high energy levels, an EMP can damage physical objects such as trees, buildings and aircraft.

    Pry said the North Korean test last year took place over the South Pole, which he called a strategic move.

    “We are blind from the south. We don’t have the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System or interceptors to protect us from the south,” said Pry.

    The congressional analyst said this was done after North Korea’s third illegal nuclear test in February 2013 and after the country's leader, Kim Jong Un, threatened to strike the United States and its allies with a nuclear missile.

    Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) said, “I cannot speak to the motives of the North Korean satellite experiment, but... we need to move with all deliberate speed to shore up our infrastructure.”

    A couple months later, a North Korean freighter, the Chong Chon Gang, was caught attempting to move through the Panama Canal with a cargo of nuclear capable missiles on their launchers. They were hidden under thousands of bags of sugar.

    This was no mistake on the part of the North Koreans, Pry told VOA. He said he believes Pyongyang was testing the United States to find out if it could traffic nuclear weapons through the Gulf of Mexico and the Panama Canal without detection. He said had the North Koreans gone the long way around South America, the U.S. never would have known what North Korea was shipping.

    He said it was just by chance they were caught because no one was looking for nuclear missiles.

    “We inspected the freighter not because anyone thought there were nuclear capable missiles onboard, but because this freighter is notorious for doing trade with drug cartels and terrorists, and so we were looking for illicit drugs that the freighter might be smuggling, and they found the nuclear capable missiles," said Pry.

    Clarke, who is the ranking member on the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, Cybersecurity, Science and Technology, said “again, I cannot say whether it is a deliberate attempt by the North Koreans to test out or test run the capabilities of approaching the U.S." with nuclear capable missiles, but “they are looking for ways to approach the United States, and I am sure it is not for the sake of friendly trade, but to do our nation harm.”

    Clarke, together with Rep. Trent Franks (R-A.Z.), tried to address the EMP threat in June 2013 when they introduced the Shield Act, which has stalled in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

    According to Pry, near the end of the Cold War, the Russians developed the technology for a super EMP. This is a class of nuclear weapon with a special design to produce a particularly powerful EMP field.  He says that in 2004 a delegation of Russian generals, including two of their top EMP experts, met with the EMP commission.

    “They told us proactively, ‘we have bad news. We developed this super EMP weapon, and during the post-Cold War brain drain, some of our scientists went to North Korea,'" he said.

    At the time, Pry said, the Russian generals thought that within a few years, North Korea could develop a super EMP weapon.

    You May Like

    Republicans Struggle With Reality of Trump Nomination

    Despite calls for unity by presumptive presidential nominee, analysts see inevitable fragmentation of party ahead of November election and beyond

    Spanish Warrants Point to Russian Govt. Links to Organized Crime

    Links to several Russians, some of them reputedly close Putin associates, backed by ‘very strong evidence,’ Spanish judge says

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    Iraq needs stable, central government to push back against Islamic State, US says, but others warn that Baghdad may not have unified front any time soon

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora