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

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid