As the tension between North Korea and the US continues to grow, the possibility of war is rapidly evolving into a probability. Now some military experts worry that an attack via EMP (electromagnetic pulse) on the US mainland might be a feasible option for Pyongyang.
The signs are certainly there: Having recently completed the ninth missile test of 2017, Kim Jong-un promised to send the US an even bigger “gift package.”
Adding to Kim Jong-un’s antics and inflammatory rhetoric, the recent death of American college student Otto Warmbier after his 17-month imprisonment in North Korea has certainly fanned the flames of antagonism between the US and the rogue regime.
Han Tae Song, North Korea’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, firmly rejected the accusation of misconduct and declared North Korea operates “according to our national laws and according to international standards.”
To add insult to injury, Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) also denies any wrongdoing or torture of Otto Warmbier—even going as far as to say North Korea is the “biggest victim” in this situation.
Most analysts believe North Korea is not yet capable of a direct missile strike on the US mainland, but Kim Jong-un’s dogged determination to make this a reality is quite disconcerting.
Some experts believe that the more realistic threat at this point in time is an EMP attack. To make that happen, all North Korea has to do is launch a low-yield nuclear missile from a submarine, ship, or even by balloon and explode it at high altitude, above the atmosphere.
The potential result: a blackout of the Eastern grid that supplies 75% of power to the United States.
If an EMP attack did take place, it would be beyond anything we have seen before. The Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack, which was established by Congress in 2001, estimates that within 12 months following a nationwide blackout, “up to 90% of the US population could perish from starvation, disease, and societal breakdown.”
In practical terms, a catastrophic blackout would be worst in cities, because it would instantly deprive the population of access to drinking water, refrigeration, heat, air conditioning, and telecommunication. Food stores would be looted within a matter of days, and gas stations would cease to function without electricity.
Without Internet access and power, all commerce and advanced methods of communication would stop. There would be no TV, radio, phones. Credit card transactions and cash withdrawals at banks would be impossible. Paper money would become worthless, and Bitcoin would cease to exist, along with the stock market.
Newt Gingrich, speaking at the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources earlier this month, said an EMP attack “would send us back to the 18th century.”
But that’s not the only problem. If no outside help arrives, within days, chaos begins to reign. Civilization is a rather thin veneer that humans have acquired over centuries, a mask covering our hard-wired survival instincts. Once the mask slips, it could mean the end of the world as we know it.
US politicians and major utilities have kicked the can down the road when it comes to EMP preparation. Edison Electric estimates that shielding transformers for the US grid system could cost $20 billion.
Granted, American power companies have been studying ways to protect our electronic grids against attack, but tangible results are slow in coming.
The only current option after an EMP attack would be to replace damaged or destroyed transformers. However, says Scott Aaronson, managing director for Cyber and Infrastructure Security at Edison Electric, replacements for those transformers must be procured from foreign suppliers, which could take up to 18 months.
Peter Vincent Pry, leader of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, believes North Korea is closer to launching an EMP attack than many analysts believe. He wants Congress to work harder and cut the red tape to allow the innovation necessary to mitigate the threat.
In Pry’s opinion, an EMP attack would ultimately kill more Americans than a direct nuclear blast could. His book, The Long Sunday, describes several plausible EMP attack scenarios.
Pry thinks that “the first nation to use nuclear weapons today—even a rogue state like North Korea or Iran—will immediately become the most feared and credible nuclear power in the world, a formidable force to be reckoned with, and perhaps the dominant actor in a new world order.”
Is there a sensible way to prepare for an EMP attack?
Maybe not, but stocking some food, water, fuel, and batteries for emergencies is always a good idea—as well as owning a stash of gold coins as hard assets.
While “you can’t eat gold,” as some preppers say, it is the only kind of money that has prevailed over the millennia.
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