LONDON – The U.S. should “seriously consider” a surgical strike to prevent North Korea from further developing its long-range missiles and mounting an electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) attack on America, former CIA director James Woolsey said on Sunday.
Talking on a WABC radio show, Woolsey said that policies laid out by former Secretary of Defense William Perry and now-Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter recommending preemptive counter-strikes against North Korean ballistic missile assets “ought to be on the agenda for very serious consideration.”
“Once you can launch a satellite into orbit, any country would be capable, if it had a nuclear weapon, of detonating the nuclear weapon while on the satellite, while the satellite is in orbit and unfortunately that is a rather easy way to create an electromagnetic pulse,” Woolsey said according to a transcription published by WND Politics.
It was not the first time the former CIA director warned of the threat of a potential North Korean EMP attack. In May, Woolsey argued in the Wall Street Journal that Obama should consider preemptive strikes against North Korean missile assets to help avert “catastrophic” EMP attacks.
But although Woolsey argues the risk of a crippling North Korean EMP attack is increasing, other experts disagree that North Korea poses much of a threat in this area.
“Yes, a North Korea nuclear weapon that detonated in space would create an EMP. But North Korea is far away from being able to do that,” Mark Fitzpatrick, Director of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Programme at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told NK News.
“To posit this as a reason to launch a pre-emptive war against North Korea is barmy.”
“The small satellite that North Korea put into space in December – and failed to stabilize – does not mean that North Korea could put a nuclear weapon into orbit. A much more powerful launcher would be needed, and much, much better electronics. North Korea may be able to do it someday, but there is plenty of time to pursue other options for halting the missile program,” Fitzpatrick added.
While Woolsely warned that an EMP attack could “take out a huge share of the United States’ electricity grid,” others dispute whether or not an EMP attack would ever be able to disrupt electricity grids in the way he suggests.
“Even if we understand how an electromagnetic pulse works and have data about the vulnerability of equipment, a modern system like a power grid or communications network presents just too complex a set of resiliencies and vulnerabilities,” Jeffrey Lewis wrote in Foreign Policy this May.
North Korean state media has only commented once on its capability to conduct a “super electromagnetic wave” attack.
Rejecting it could mount such an attack, a Rodong Sinmun article in February said that U.S. Congressman Trent Frank’s warnings of North Korean electromagnetic attacks were “aimed to isolate the DPRK politically, suffocate economically and stifle militarily even with use of nukes (sic)”.
“The U.S. war hawks are preoccupied by extreme nuclear delusion,” the Rodong article added.
James Woolsey was Director of the CIA between February 1993 and January 1995 and has worked for both Democratic and Republican administrations. He currently serves as chairman of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a conservative think-tank in Washington, D.C.
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