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September 20th, 2017 at 9:21 am

Electromagnetic pulse threat from North Korea

While the world has been fixated on North Korea’s growing nuclear missile arsenal, the rogue state’s threats against the West now include a weapon that can take down a country’s electricity grid.

While the world has been fixated on North Korea’s growing nuclear missile arsenal, the rogue state’s threats against the West now include a weapon that can take down a country’s electricity grid.

In a rare reference this month, North Korea’s state news agency touched on its ability to carry out an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, attack.

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The weapon, Pyongyang said, “is a multifunctional thermonuclear nuke with great destructive power which can be detonated even at high altitudes for super-powerful EMP attack”.

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Sydney-based security expert Euan Graham, of the Lowy Institute for International Policy, told Nine.com.au an EMP strike would be triggered by the detonation of a nuclear weapon tens or hundreds of kilometres above the earth.

“Electromagnetic waves from the nuclear explosion would generate pulses to swamp the electric grid and electronic devices over the target area,” he explained.

Dr Graham explained its potential was realised in the 1950s and 1960s by American hydrogen bomb testing.

In one Pacific test, in 1962, the lights went out in Honolulu, almost 2000 kilometres from the blast site.

To that end, an EMP is more a weapon of mass disruption than one of mass destruction: such a weapon would not directly kill people or turn buildings to rubble.

But its effect on a heavily technology-dependent society such as the US or Japan would be potentially devastating.

Outages would likely last for months, crippling electricity supply and leaving hospitals and other critical infrastructure with power.

Emergency workers couldn’t function normally, and people could run short of food and water supplies.

Alarm bells about an EMP’s threat were raised in a 2008 report by the US Congress.

It warned an attack “can hold our society at risk of catastrophic consequences”.

Just as alarming is the apparent low-tech delivery of an EMP weapon.

“Even a balloon-lofted warhead detonated at 30 kilometres altitude could blackout the [US] Eastern Grid that supports most of the population and generates 75 percent of US electricity,” William Graham, chairman of the US congressional commission, wrote in an article published by 38 North website.

But Dr Graham strikes a note of caution.

‘Time and pressure’ key to solving North Korea crisis: Julie Bishop

He told Nine.com.au an EMP is not the priority weapon for North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.

“It’s not their first priority. They are more concerned about building a belts and braces nuclear strike force to deter the US.”

But Dr Graham says the biggest hurdle to North Korea deploying an EMP is the retaliation it would attract.

The US would regard any EMP detonation above it as a nuclear strike.

“Nuclear use is nuclear use,” he explained.

And the consequences for North Korea could be catastrophic.

Via 9News

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