INTRODUCTION If a war were to break out on the Korean peninsula over Pyongyang’s development of long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles and its thermonuclear weapons development efforts, the resulting conflict would be catastrophic even if it remained purely conventional. Worse still would be if nuclear weapons were used — which could ultimately escalate into Armageddon. While the devastation that nuclear weapons can wreak onto cities and other population centers is obvious, the use of tactical nuclear weapons is often overlooked. There is a perception that America and allies might suffer huge damage from the effects of electromagnetic pulses, or EMPs, generated by tactical nuclear weapons. In this video Defense Updates analyses WHY THREAT OF NORTH KOREAN EMP WEAPON IS OVERHYPED? CONCEPT An electromagnetic pulse (EMP), also sometimes called a transient electromagnetic disturbance, is a short burst of electromagnetic radiation. A nuclear electromagnetic pulse is the abrupt pulse of electromagnetic radiation resulting from a nuclear explosion. The resulting rapidly changing electric fields and magnetic fields may couple with electrical/electronic systems to produce damaging current and voltage surges. The intense gamma radiation emitted can also ionize the surrounding air, creating a secondary EMP as the atoms of air first lose their electrons and then regain them. Nuclear Electromagnetic Pulse or NEMP weapons are designed to maximize such EMP effects as the primary damage mechanism, and some are capable of destroying susceptible electronic equipment over a wide area. PROBABLE IMPACT EMPs can do serious damage of electrical systems that are not specifically hardened to withstand such events. Indeed, U.S. cities as well as U.S armed forces are particularly vulnerable due to America’s reliance on networks and advanced sensor system. Defense analysts and military officials are reluctant to comment openly about the seriousness of the problem due to the level of classification, but they knowledge that only some U.S. and allied hardware is protected from the effects of an EMP blast. The commercial infrastructures of any modern city are very vulnerable to such a weapon. READINESS AGAINST EMP ATTACK Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula, dean of the Mitchell Institute and former service intelligence chief “It would be an additional challenge to overcome … EMP hardening is very expensive, and in the world of the last 25 years of putting reducing costs as a priority over full spectrum operational capability, it has not been a high priority.” Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, was more direct. “Most of our systems are not hardened against EMP. Some older analog or Cold War-era systems are,” Clark said. “It is unclear whether a high atmospheric nuclear explosion would cause a significant EMP effect at lower altitudes and whether North Korea could execute such an attack without also affecting their own capabilities.” Mark Gunzinger, an air power analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and a former Boeing B-52 strategic bomber pilot, told The National Interest that the Pentagon been expect such asymmetric threats, but needs funding to address the challenge. All experts do believe that the vulnerability of non military commercially infrastructure against EMP is many times more. DETERENT VALUE Even if the North Koreans did not resort to using nuclear weapons to target cities and population centers, targeting only allied military forces or using an EMP blast, it is likely that the U.S. would resort to a nuclear counter-strike. Joshua H. Pollack, editor of The Nonproliferation Review and a senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies: “If someone had a super-powerful EMP that fried the North American power grid, do you imagine that the president would just shrug and say, ‘Nothing we can do about that ?” So, basically whether it is a NEMP or a strategic nuclear bomb, America will respond with an overwhelming, devastating nuclear counter attack. EFFECTIVENESS The effectiveness of EMP will vary, depending on the target’s resistance capability against electromagnetic pulse and the impact is hard to foresee . So, there is no point in using a perfectly good nuclear weapon to be used as an EMP weapon whose effectiveness is suspect, when it could totally destroy a city in original form. This scenario is especially true for North Korea, as it has limited number of nukes. In any case, it is unlikely that North Korea would show any restraint if the United States intervened to overthrow the regime in Pyongyang. Six years after Mr. Kim took power, he began slaying those who challenged his rule — sometimes with an antiaircraft gun, clearly demonstrating his brutal nature.

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