On a positive note, the Republic of Korea (South Korea) has a modern military and air force capable of dealing with the North Korean threat, and the presence of U.S. and allied forces deters outright hostilities on the part of the North. While military options are certainly on the table with the DPRK, diplomatic efforts are necessary in the face of a relentless adversary on the verge of acquiring a limited, yet potent, nuclear capability.
Electromagnetic Pulse Threat
Much has been presented on the electromagnetic pulse (“EMP”) threat posed by a high-altitude nuclear bust over the U.S., but we should bear in mind that the weapons used in the Pacific tests in the early ‘60s were megaton-range warheads. In order to address the effects of low-yield weapons and EMP effects, I requested several documents from the Department of Energy in early 2017. Interestingly enough, much of the pertinent data was heavily redacted, proving beyond a reasonable doubt that megaton-yield weapons are not necessary for regionwide EMP effects – damaging electronic equipment out to 600 miles from burst zero. 13 Information from past Soviet exo-atmospheric shots in the 300-kiloton range supports this as well. Therefore, while low-yield weapons will not produce the wide-ranging effects over the continental U.S., several exo-atmospheric bursts at specific points across the U.S. could inflict EMP damage on a mass scale. Where We Stand Today During the Cold War, the Soviet Union and its allies routinely trained terrorist organizations to conduct operations against the West, while promoting the facade of détente. The DPRK has conducted terrorist operations overseas for decades, ranging from bombings of airliners to attempted assassinations of heads of state.
Several exo-atmospheric bursts at specific points across the U.S. could inflict EMP damage on a mass scale.
Michael H. Maggelet is a retired U.S. Air Force nuclear weapons team chief. During his career from 1980 to 1995, he worked on the
B43, B57, B61, W69/SRAM, and B83 nuclear weapons, and had assignments in New Hampshire, New York, West Germany, and South Dakota. He is the author of two books on nuclear weapons accidents with James C. Oskins: Broken Arrow: The Declassified History of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Accidents (2008), and Broken Arrow: Volume II (2010).
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