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

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    How Diversity Has Changed America

    Over the past four decades, the level of diversity in the United States has increased most in these four states

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.