Understanding North Korea and Iran

by DR. PETER VINCENT PRY February 26, 2013

The West consistently and unwittingly cooperates with North Korea and Iran by underestimating the advancement, sophistication, and strategic implications of their nuclear weapon and missile programs.

Despite North Korea's successful long-range missile test in December 2012, and now its third successful nuclear test on February 12, 2013, the Obama administration and the press keep reassuring the American people that North Korea is not yet a fully fledged nuclear weapons state - that a North Korean nuclear missile threat to the United States is still years in the future. 

The facts do not support this judgment.  North Korea is already a major nuclear threat to the United States--an existential threat.

Common wisdom in the press, encouraged by the Obama Administration and North Korea, is that North Korea has not yet miniaturized nuclear warheads for missile delivery, and that its nuclear tests are in pursuit of designing a nuclear missile warhead.  Indeed, the Obama administration and the western press both naively took at face value and parroted North Korea's public claim that their third nuclear test is for nuclear warhead miniaturization. 

Yet this claim is almost certainly disinformation designed to conceal that North Korea's nuclear weapon program is advanced far beyond warhead miniaturization.  Miniaturization to develop a nuclear warhead is not difficult to do, and can be accomplished even without nuclear testing. 

North Korea and Iran both have strategic reasons to mislead and conceal from the West the true status of their nuclear and missile programs.  They intend that the U.S. and its allies will underestimate those programs, fail to act in time to stop them, and be strategically surprised when North Korea and Iran become nuclear super-powers, and progenitors of a dystopian new world order.    

North Korean Missiles--Nuclear Armed Now

The press appears to have forgotten that the U.S. intelligence community, under then Director of Central Intelligence, R. James Woolsey, testified to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on January 25, 1994, that North Korea then had enough plutonium for at least one nuclear weapon, and already had the bomb.  So today, the Obama administration and the press expects us to believe that North Korea has still not figured out how to make a nuclear warhead for missile delivery, after nearly 20 years of trying.

Clinton administration mythology has it, largely accepted by a compliant press, that President Clinton's Agreed Framework initiative slowed or stopped North Korea's nuclear weapon program until an overly aggressive Bush administration provoked North Korea to resume  warhead development with its first nuclear test in 2006. 

This is nonsense. 

I served on the congressional North Korea Advisory Group during the Clinton administration. We warned the White House, the press, anyone who would listen, that North Korea was cheating on the Agreed Framework.  During the Clinton years, North Korea forged full speed ahead on its nuclear weapons program--including with a clandestine uranium centrifuge program, to supplement the known plutonium program for North Korea's advancing nuclear arsenal. 

Unfortunately, the press was not interested and our NKAG Report went virtually unreported.

So, North Korea achieved a nuclear weapons capability during the Clinton administration in 1994, and not during the Bush administration with their first test in 2006.  We know from our own experience, and from that of other nations, that nuclear testing is not necessary to develop a nuclear weapon.  Little Boy, the first nuclear weapon ever built, was developed and used successfully by the U.S. to destroy Hiroshima, without nuclear testing.  Hiroshima was the test.

We also know from our own experience, and from that of other nations, that it does not take 20 years to miniaturize a nuclear warhead for missile delivery. 

By 1948, just a few years after the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima with Little Boy, that weighed 9,700 pounds, the United States was already building highly miniaturized Atomic Demolition Munitions, like the T-1 ADM, that weighed only 150 pounds.  By 1953, just eight years after Hiroshima, the United States built its first missile nuclear warhead, the W-7, also deliverable by a variety of platforms.  The hard part was developing a ballistic missile to deliver the warhead, which was not achieved by the U.S. until 13 years after Hiroshima, in 1958.

Today, however, North Korea and other nuclear weapon states are not re-inventing the nuclear wheel.  They can draw on a vast treasure trove of declassified information about U.S. nuclear weapons development.  Moreover, North Korea and other nuclear weapon states are using modern 21st Century technology, and do not have to rely upon primitive 1930s and 1940s era technology, as did the United States during the Manhattan Project and its early nuclear weapons program.  Further, North Korea and other nuclear rogues help each other, and also get help from China and Russia.

For these reasons, North Korea and other states like Pakistan and Israel have nuclear weapon programs far more sophisticated than is widely recognized by the press. 

Pakistan, for example, developed a nuclear warhead for its Ghauri medium-range missile in just one year, after its first nuclear test in 1998.  Israel, we know from the defection of Israeli nuclear weapons expert  Mordechai Vanunu, from the analysis of U.S. nuclear weapons experts and the respected Wisconsin Project, has a wide array of highly sophisticated nuclear weapons.  These include miniaturized nuclear warheads for Israel's Jericho medium-range missile, thermonuclear weapons, nuclear artillery, and neutron warheads--all achieved without nuclear testing.  South Africa too developed a nuclear arsenal, now dismantled, without nuclear testing.

The press that thinks North Korea is still trying to miniaturize a warhead for missiles, appears not to have noticed that, according to the U.S. and international intelligence communities, North Korea has already mastered miniaturization and is already armed with nuclear missiles. 

In 2011, the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. General Ronald Burgess, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that North Korea has weaponized its nuclear device into warheads for ballistic missiles.  In 2009, European intelligence agencies headquartered in Brussels and supporting NATO concluded that North Korea has armed with nuclear warheads its Nodong missiles capable of striking Japan.  The CIA's top East Asia analyst publicly stated that North Korea had successfully miniaturized nuclear warheads for missile delivery in a 2008 interview.

Super-EMP Warhead--Nation Killer

The Obama administration and its allies in the press also want us to believe that North Korea's current "nuclear devices" are not a real threat because of their low explosive yield, only a few kilotons.  Supposedly, North Korea after 20 years and three nuclear tests is still struggling to make a crude first generation atomic bomb. 

In fact, almost certainly, North Korea now possesses a highly advanced third generation nuclear warhead that could destroy the United States with a single blow.

North Korea's nuclear tests in 2006, 2009, and recently in 2013 were all low yield.  Some reports claim the 2013 test might have been as much as 10 kilotons, but the official position of the National Director of Intelligence, Lt. General James Clapper, is that the 2013 test too yielded only "several kilotons."  This is not much.  In contrast, the primitive U.S. Little Boy bomb that destroyed Hiroshima had a yield of 10-15 kilotons.  In the 1970s, a Princeton physics student named Aristotle Phillips proved that even he could design, as a college project, a nuclear weapon like Little Boy, an experiment he described in his 1978 book Mushroom.  Does North Korea not have a library card?  

If North Korea's nuclear weapon is an ordinary nuclear warhead designed to create a big explosion, then it is not much of a threat.  The lethal radius of "several kilotons" is so small, and the miss distance of North Korean missiles is so great, that such a warhead might well explode harmlessly in the countryside, and do little damage to the targeted city. 

Yet North Korea is happy with its mysterious "nuclear device," has declared all its tests successful, and has weaponized it into warheads.  Is North Korea arming its missiles with nuclear duds?  Are they stupid?

In 2004, the Congressional Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Commission was warned by a delegation of Russian generals that Russia had developed a "Super-EMP" nuclear warhead, and that design information for this weapon had leaked to North Korea.  A Super-EMP warhead is a nuclear weapon specially designed to produce an enormous burst of gamma rays that generates an extraordinarily powerful electromagnetic pulse, capable of destroying even the best protected electronics, thereby paralyzing military forces and blacking out power grids and collapsing critical infrastructures everywhere--across an entire nation the size of the United States. 

One signature of a Super-EMP weapon is that it has a very low explosive yield, just several kilotons, or even less if it is more efficient, because the weapon is converting the energy of the nuclear warhead into gamma rays.

In 2004, the Russian generals told the EMP Commission that North Korea was getting help developing a Super-EMP nuclear weapon from contractors from Russia, China, Pakistan and elsewhere, and could probably test such a weapon "in a few years."  A few years later, in 2006, North Korea tested its mysterious "nuclear device" that produced an explosive yield of only several kilotons, and so was derided by the Western press as a failure--but hailed as a success by North Korea.

Independently of the Congressional EMP Commission, South Korean military intelligence several times warned their government, in stories reported in South Korean press, that Russians are in North Korea helping them develop a Super-EMP nuclear warhead.  In response, the South Korean government launched projects to harden their military communications and other critical infrastructures.

In 2010, according to some reputable European analysts, radioisotope data indicates North Korea may have conducted two clandestine nuclear tests of a very low yield "nuclear device" of sophisticated fusion design.  This is indicative of a weapons program that is very technologically advanced, and consistent with development of a Super-EMP warhead.

In 2012, a military commentator for the People's Republic of China told a Hong Kong journal that North Korea has Super-EMP nuclear warheads.

The Congressional EMP Commission warned in its 2004 and 2008 reports that the electromagnetic pulse from a single nuclear weapon detonated at high-altitude over the United States could have catastrophic consequences nation-wide.  One warhead making an EMP attack could collapse the national electric grid and other critical infrastructures--communications, transportation, banking and finance, food and water--that sustain modern civilization and the lives of millions.

Just as aqueducts were the cornerstone of classical Roman civilization in antiquity, so electric grids are the most critical infrastructure to all modern societies.  Super-EMP weapons threaten the technological foundations of modern civilization that makes possible the prosperity and large populations of the United States and other developed nations in the 21st Century.

All nuclear weapons produce gamma rays and EMP.  However, a Super-EMP attack on the U.S. would cause much more and much deeper damage than a primitive nuclear weapon, and so would increase confidence that the catastrophic consequences will be irreversible.  A Super-EMP attack would inflict maximum damage and be optimum for realizing a world without America.        

North Korea's ICBM

The Obama administration estimates, and the press dutifully reports, that North Korea is still years away from having an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that can strike the United States.  This estimate is based on the assumption that North Korea is seeking a normal ICBM that would deliver an ordinary atomic or nuclear warhead, designed to blast a city, necessitating a heavy re-entry vehicle and heat shield, the missile to be launched on a normal ballistic trajectory for striking a city, and capable of delivering a payload of about one ton (2,000 pounds).  According to these estimates, even when North Korea finally perfects its ICBM--some three to five years in the future--it will only have sufficient range to strike Hawaii, Alaska, and maybe the west coast of the U.S. mainland.

However, North Korea appears to have borrowed more from the Russians than the design of a Super-EMP warhead.

During the Cold War, the USSR experimented with a secret weapon, the Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS), that used an ICBM like a Space Launch Vehicle to put a nuclear warhead into orbit, like a satellite.  Instead of using the ICBM to lob the warhead on a more accurate arcing ballistic trajectory, flying along the shortest range to target, like an artillery shell, the FOBS lofted the warhead into a "fractional" or partial orbit, sacrificing accuracy for limitless range.       

FOBS could reach any nation or threaten any target anywhere on Earth.

A Super-EMP warhead does not weigh much, and could probably be delivered by North Korea's Fractional Orbital Bombardment System, successfully tested in December 2012, against any nation on Earth.  Thus, North Korea already possesses an ICBM and poses a mortal nuclear threat to the United States, and to all nations on Earth--right now.   

North Korea, during the successful test of its ICBM on December 12, 2012, orbited a satellite weighing 100 kilograms (about 200 pounds).  One design of a Super-EMP warhead would be a modified neutron bomb, more accurately an Enhanced Radiation Warhead (ERW) because it produces not only many neutrons but also many gamma rays.  As noted earlier, gamma rays cause the EMP effect.  One U.S. ERW warhead (the W-82) deployed in NATO during the Cold War weighed, including its heavy casing, less than 50 kilograms.  Since the EMP attack entails detonating the warhead at high-altitude, above the atmosphere, the warhead does not even need a heavy re-entry vehicle and heat shield.

North Korea's ICBM does not have to be accurate to make an EMP attack against the United States. 

The EMP field is so large that detonating anywhere over the U.S. would have catastrophic consequences.  North Korea orbited its satellite around the Earth at an altitude of about 500 kilometers.  The trajectory of North Korea's satellite is no accident--they deliberately aimed for and achieved this orbit and altitude, as announced before their launch. 

An altitude of 500 kilometers would be ideal for making an EMP attack that places the field over the entire lower 48 United States.

North Korea's ICBM, delivering an EMP attack by means of an inaccurate satellite warhead, would likely miss its horizontal aimpoint over the geographic center of the U.S. by tens of kilometers.  Bursting the warhead at an altitude of 500 kilometers would compensate for this inaccuracy by creating an EMP field big enough to cover everything.  North Korea's satellite did not pass over the United States--but a slight adjustment in its trajectory would have flown it over or near the U.S. bull's eye for a high-altitude EMP burst.

Surprise Attack

The primary purpose of the Fractional Orbital Bombardments System, that North Korea appears to have borrowed from Russia, is to make a surprise nuclear attack.  FOBS is stealthy as it can strike from any direction, from unexpected directions, not just from the shortest direction or by using the trajectory that would be normal for an ICBM.  Because FOBS looks like a Space Launch Vehicle, not an ICBM making a nuclear attack, this disguise optimizes chances for achieving surprise.

During the Cold War, Moscow experimented with a stealthy way of delivering a nuclear attack on the United States using a Fractional Orbital Bombardment System to elude radar detection.  This would entail launching an ICBM southward, away from the United States, so it appears non-threatening, and delivering the warhead like a satellite on a south polar orbit, so the nuclear attack comes at the U.S. from the south. 

During the Cold War--and today--the United States has no Ballistic Missile Early Warning Radars or missile interceptors facing south.  We would not even see an attack from the south coming.

Two U.S. PAVE PAWS Large Phased Array Radars--designed to look for submarine missiles launched from the Atlantic and Pacific toward the U.S. east and west coasts--do look southward with the edges of their radar fields.  However, there is a gap between the fields, a hole in the radar coverage, larger than the Yucatan Peninsula, and in that general location.

Miroslav Gyurosi in The Soviet Fractional Orbital Bombardment System describes Moscow's development of the FOBS as part of  "a long running campaign of strategic deception against the West through the whole Cold War period, and the protracted development of the Soviet FOBS nuclear weapon system presents an excellent case study of such."  Miroslav Gyurosi:

                        The Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS) as it was

            known in the West, was a Soviet innovation intended to exploit the limitations

            of U.S. BMEW radar coverage.  The idea behind FOBS was that a large

            thermonuclear warhead could be inserted into a steeply inclined low

            altitude polar orbit, such that it would approach the CONUS from any

            direction, but primarily from the southern hemisphere, and following a

            programmed braking maneuver, re-enter from a direction which was not

            covered by U.S. BMEW radars.

"The first warning the U.S. would have of such a strike in progress would be the EMP...," writes Gyurosi.

The trajectory of North Korea's ICBM test of December 12, 2012, looked very much like a Fractional Orbital Bombardment System for EMP attack.  The missile launched southward, away from the United States, sent the satellite over the south polar region, approaching the U.S. from the south, at the optimum altitude for EMP attack--although the test trajectory deliberately avoided passing over the U.S. 

North Korea now appears to be armed with a FOBS capability to make a surprise nuclear attack against the United States--or against any and all nations on Earth--with Super-EMP.

Iran

Might North Korea sell Super-EMP warheads and its stealthy Fractional Orbital Bombardment System with global reach to Iran?  North Korea and Iran have been collaborating all along.

Iran may already have a FOBS capability, as it has successfully launched two satellites on polar orbits, assisted by North Korean missile technology and North Korean technicians. 

Iran launched its satellites southward, over the Indian Ocean, flying them over the polar region to approach the U.S. from the south.  Like North Korea, Iran did not fly its satellites over the U.S.  But a slight adjustment in trajectory would have sent them over the geographic center of the lower 48 United States.  Like North Korea, Iran orbited its satellites at about 500 kilometers altitude, optimum for placing an EMP field over the entire contiguous United States.

Iranian scientists were present at all three North Korean nuclear tests, according to press reports.  North Korean scientists are known to be present in Iran.  North Korea has been denounced by the United Nations for selling a facility to Syria for developing nuclear weapons, which was bombed by Israel.  So if North Korea has sold nuclear weapons technology to Syria, why not Iran?

Conceivably, Iran could already have or be close to developing a Super-EMP warhead.  Reza Kahlili, the only CIA operative to successfully penetrate the scientific wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, reports that Iran acquired several tactical nuclear warheads from Russia--including a neutron warhead.  As noted earlier, a neutron or Enhanced Radiation Warhead would be well suited for making an EMP attack.

In June 2002, when concern about Iran's nuclear weapons program was just beginning in the West, Russian General Yuri Baluyevsky, Deputy Chief of the Russian General Staff, declared: "Iran does have nuclear weapons.  These are non-strategic weapons...As for the danger of Iran's attack on the United States, the danger is zero." 

This startling declaration, little reported in the Western press, by Russia's second highest military officer--who was soon promoted to Chief of the General Staff, the highest rank, equivalent to the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff--appears to confirm Reza Kahlili's warning that Iran already has tactical nuclear warheads from Russia.

How did General Baluyevsky know so much about Iran's nuclear weapons program, and why was he so complacent about Iran already having tactical nuclear weapons?  After the fall of the USSR, in 1995 a military think tank called INOBIS, that serves the Russian General Staff, wrote a paper recommending that Russia deliberately proliferate missile and nuclear weapon technology to nations hostile to the United States.  Nuclear proliferation would balance growing U.S. power, and thwart Washington's efforts to establish a New World Order dominated by America. 

Is it possible that the Russian General Staff followed the INOBIS policy, deliberately transferred tactical nuclear weapons, including an Enhanced Radiation Warhead, and purposely leaked the secret of the Super-EMP nuclear warhead to North Korea and Iran?  Is it possible that Russian leaders, or at least some Russian faction, regretted this policy by 2004, fearing they had created a Frankenstein Monster, and so warned the EMP Commission?

If Iran acquires or develops a Super-EMP warhead, Iran's targets or that of its terrorist proxies will be the populations of America and Israel.  A fatwa or religious edict by Ayman al Zawahiri, a spiritual and operational leader of international terrorists, including al Qaeda, advocates the use of nuclear weapons against the American people because, "There is no doubt that the greatest enemy of Islam and Muslims at this time is the Americans."  Zawahiri approves the use of nuclear weapons against both America and Israel, and encourages striking America first so that "the United States vanishes and is followed by Israel."

World Order to World Chaos

The Obama administration and the press cautions that a North Korea and Iran armed with nuclear weapons could endanger their neighbors, like South Korea and Israel, and provoke wider nuclear proliferation.  This grossly understates the real threat.

In fact, North Korea and Iran imperil the political and economic gains made by Mankind since the Enlightenment, by arming themselves with what are essentially "anti-technology weapons" that could inflict a worldwide blackout and, figuratively and literally, turn the clock of history back to the Dark Ages.   

The Congressional EMP Commission estimates that, given the nation's current unpreparedness, an EMP attack would plunge the United States into a protracted, perhaps permanent, blackout--and within one year about two-thirds of the national population, 200 million Americans, would probably perish from starvation, disease, and societal collapse. 

Therefore, Super-EMP warheads mated to FOBS missiles that can reach any nation on Earth with an EMP attack, will confer upon North Korea and Iran an Assured Destruction capability against the United States, and the world.  The geopolitical consequences of this development are so extremely grave that U.S. and global security have, in effect, gone over the "strategic cliff" into free-fall.  Where we will land, into what kind of future, is as yet unknown.

Nevertheless, some very bad developments are foreseeable.  Iran will certainly be inspired by North Korea's example to persist in the development of its own nuclear weapon and ICBM programs to pose a mortal threat to the United States.  North Korea will continue to help Iran.

If North Korea and Iran both acquire the capability to threaten America and the world with EMP genocide, this will destroy the foundations of the existing world order based on the U.S. acting as a superpower, which has since 1945 halted the cycle of world wars and sustained the global advancement of freedom.  North Korea and Iran being armed with Assured Destruction capability changes the whole strategic calculus of risk for the United States in upholding its superpower role, and will erode the confidence of U.S. allies--perhaps to the point where they need to develop their own nuclear weapons.

Most alarming, we are fast moving to a place where, for the first time in history, failed little states like North Korea and Iran, that cannot even feed their own people, will have power in their hands to blackmail or destroy the largest and most successful societies on Earth.  North Korea and Iran perceive themselves to be at war with the United States, and are desperate, highly unpredictable characters.  When the mob is at the gates of their dictators, will they want to take America with them, down into darkness?          

For nearly a decade the Congressional EMP Commission and other major U.S. Government studies have been warning about the catastrophic consequences of an EMP attack from Iran, North Korea, China, Russia or their terrorist proxies--a story unreported by the Obama administration or the mainstream media.  The New York Times, the Washington Post, ABC, NBC, CBS and the other usual suspects are not interested.

Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is Executive Director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and Director of the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum, both congressional advisory boards, and served in the Congressional EMP Commission, the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, the House Armed Services Committee, and the CIA.  He is author of Apocalypse Unknown: The Struggle To Protect America From An Electromagnetic Pulse Catastrophe available through CreateSpace.com or Amazon.com.                              

 

 

Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is Executive Director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and Director of the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum, both Congressional Advisory Boards, and served on the Congressional EMP Commission, the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, the House Armed Services Committee, and the CIA. He is author of Apocalypse Unknown: The Struggle To Protect America From An Electromagnetic Pulse Catastrophe and Electric Armageddon, both available from CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com                                    

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