This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, May 17, 2017: 

According to Ben Cohen, North Korea’s “Supreme Leader,” Kim Jong-un, is certifiably insane. Wrote Cohen: “Kim [is] executing hundreds of officials he deems to be disloyal in extraordinarily brutal fashion … shocking even hardened North Korean elites used to regular purges, random executions, and extreme torture.”

But how would his paranoia, his megalomania, inform his view of America? Would he be willing to launch an EMP attack using one or both of his satellites currently hovering over the US mainland, knowing that the missiles that would be returned from EMP-hardened missile sites here would obliterate his country, turning everything north of the 38th Parallel into glass?

He certainly has the capability to do so. While most of the media is focused on his missile testing and his bluster, precious few are covering his ability to end America with EMP attacks. The first satellite, launched in 2012, brought nary a whimper of concern, while the second, launched last year, was met with nearly perfect silence.

Those who expressed concern were ignored or, worse, scoffed at. Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, chief of staff of the Congressional Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack, warned on Monday:

Although North Korea, Russia, and China have all made nuclear threats against the United States recently, in the case of North Korea and Russia repeatedly, most analysts dismiss these as mere “bluster” and “nuclear sabre rattling,” not to be taken seriously.

One of those scoffing at the very idea of EMP attack from North Korea is Jeffrey Lewis, who blogs in favor of nonproliferation at his site “Arms Control Wonk.” Interviewed at National Public Radio in April, Geoff Brumfiel asked him: “Could North Korea really do this?”

Jeffrey Lewis:  (Laughter)

Brumfiel: I take that as a no.

Lewis: This is the favorite nightmare scenario of a small group of very dedicated people.

Who is Peter Vincent Pry? Currently the Executive Director of the EMP Task Force on National and Homeland Security, Pry has served on numerous congressional commissions. Prior to that, he was an intelligence officer with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), responsible for analyzing Soviet and Russian nuclear strategy.

Pry joined with James Woolsey, former director of the CIA, in penning an op-ed at in March. They noted first of all that North Korea has the present capability of launching an EMP onto the North American continent:

The notion that North Korea is testing A-Bombs and H-Bomb components but does not yet have the sophistication to miniaturize warheads and make reentry vehicles for missile delivery is absurd….


North Korea should be regarded as capable of delivering by satellite a small nuclear warhead, specially designed to make a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack against the United States.


According to the Congressional EMP Commission, a single warhead delivered by North Korean satellite could black out the national electric grid and other life-sustaining critical infrastructures for over a year – killing 9 of 10 Americans by starvation and societal collapse.

This generated pushback from an unlikely source: Popular Mechanics. Kyle Mizokami wrote that such an attack “is not realistic” and recalled various tests the US military had conducted years earlier that proved, to him at least, that even if Kim launched such an attack, it would just turn out a few streetlights and not much else. But Mizokami saved his best line for last, calling the op-ed “science fiction”: that “North Korea could kill 90 percent of the American people was directly taken from a science fiction novel!”

The novel to which Mizokami was referring is One Second After, written by William Forstchen and published in 2011. Pry and Woolsey referred to the novel in their op-ed, acknowledging that it deserved its place among one of the New York Times’ best sellers following its release. What Mizokami didn’t know, or didn’t care to check out, was that Fortschen based his novel upon a report (credited in his back notes) published in 2004 by the EMP Commission. Said the report:

The high-altitude nuclear weapon-generated electromagnetic pulse (EMP) is one of a small number of threats that has the potential to hold our society seriously at risk and might result in defeat of our military forces….


The electromagnetic fields produced by designed and deployed with the to produce EMP have a high likelihood of damaging electrical power systems, electronics, and information systems upon which American society depends. Their effects on dependent systems and infrastructures could be sufficient to qualify as catastrophic to the Nation.

And then, looking ten years into the future, the report added:

Terrorists or state actors may well calculate that, instead of destroying a city or military base, they may obtain the greatest political-military utility from one or more such by using them – or threatening their use – in an EMP attack.


The current vulnerability of US critical infrastructure can both invite and reward [such an] attack….

Could North Korea be one of those “state actors”? James Oberg thinks so. Oberg, a former NASA and U.S. Space Command official and an expert on Russian and Chinese space programs, wrote in the Washington Examiner in February of a trip he made to North Korea back in 2012:

There have been fears expressed that North Korea might use a satellite to carry a small nuclear warhead into orbit and then detonate it over the United States for an EMP strike. These concerns seem extreme and require an astronomical scale of irrationality on the part of the regime. The most frightening aspect, I’ve come to realize, is that exactly such a scale of is now evident in the rest of their “space program.

Like Pry, Oberg is no lightweight. His career spanned 22 years with NASA, where he specialized in orbital rendezvous. He has testified frequently before Congress, was a space correspondent for UPI, ABC, and MSNBC, and now is a commentator for NBC News, theDiscovery Channel, and the BBC.

North Korea’s “dear leader” is insane. Whether he will launch such an attack on the US, knowing the consequences, remains an open question. He certainly has the capability.


North Korea’s Supreme Leader

It’s Official: Kim Jong Un is More Insane than Kim Jong Il

Popular Mechanics: No, North Korea Can’t Kill 90 Percent of Americans

The Hill: How North Korea could kill 90 percent of Americans

Washington Examiner: Expert: North Korea threatens EMP, nuke attack on U.S.

The Hill: Is the US prepared for a nuclear EMP to shut down New York City?

Background on Jim Oberg

Background on Jeffrey Lewis

Jeffrey Lewis’ blog

Background on Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS)


NPR:   The North Korean Electromagnetic Pulse Threat, Or Lack Thereof (transcript of Jeffrey Lewis interview)

The Washington Times: North Korea, the real threat

Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack

Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack (2004)

William R. Forstchen’s novel, One Second After (2011)

Bio of James Woolsey

James Oberg: It’s vital to verify the harmlessness of North Korea’s next satellite

EMP Threats Force NORAD Back Into Cheyenne Mountain

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