Alert Board

North Korea Nuclear EMP Attack: An Existential Threat

Analysts like Jack Liu and Jeffrey Lewis are to be commended for their interest in educating the public about North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs and endeavoring to provide their readers with “informed analysis.” However, in a series of recent articles, both analysts have written off the possibility of a nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack from North Korea as “unlikely” and “science fiction” because they believe the 10 to 20 kiloton nuclear weapons currently possessed by North Korea are incapable of making an effective EMP attack. This dismisses the consensus view of EMP experts who have advanced degrees in physics and electrical engineering along with several decades of experience in the field—with access to classified data throughout that time—and who have conducted EMP tests on a wide variety of electronic systems, beginning in 1963.

By way of background, the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack was established by Congress in 2001 to advise the Congress, the President, the Department of Defense and other departments and agencies of the US Government on the nuclear EMP threat to military systems and civilian critical infrastructures. The EMP Commission was re-established in 2015 with its charter broadened to include natural EMP from solar storms, all manmade EMP threats, cyber-attack, sabotage and Combined-Arms Cyber Warfare. The EMP Commission charter gives it access to all relevant classified and unclassified data and the power to levy analysis upon the Department of Defense.

In the interest of better informing 38 North readers about the EMP threat, we offer this commentary to correct errors of fact, analysis, and myths about EMP.

Primitive and “Super-EMP” Nuclear Weapons are Both EMP Threats

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