The standoff between the US and North Korea progressed dramatically in the past week. The communist state that until recently everybody though was a joke kicked things off by launching a missile over the Japanese island of Hokkaido, before carrying out its sixth nuclear test. An earthquake measured at 6.3 on the richter scale was detected in the country’s mountainous North on Sunday morning. Sisemologists were sure it was not caused by natural means whih gave credibility to North Korean claims that it had conducted what it described as its first underground hydrogen bomb test.
While North Korea's leader Fat Boy Kim and his overdressed Generals bragged about the weapon’s "great destructive power" in a TV broadcast, hinting at a different tactic from dropping an H bomb on some U.S. target; military analysts warned the rogue state may be planning on detonating an H-bomb at high altitude to create an electromagnetic pulse that could knock out parts of the US electrical grid.
A British diplomat with experiene in the region warned that mainstream media's reporting of North Korea has in the past misrepresented them as a bunch of clowns, despite appearances they are an intelligent and logical people. Another analyst said, "North Korea’s threats against the U.S. now include a tactic long discussed by some experts: an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, triggered by a nuclear weapon that would aim to shut down the U.S. electricity grid."
North Korea’s state news agency made a rare reference to the tactic in a press release release today, in which the country said it was able to load a hydrogen bomb onto a long-range missile. The bomb, North Korea said, "is a multifunctional thermonuclear nuke with great destructive power which can be detonated even at high altitudes for super-powerful EMP attack.’"
Unlike a conventional nuke, an EMP blast is not directly lethal, and is designed to knock out key infrastructure. However, it would probably lead to an unknown number of indirect deaths as hospitals, air and road traffic systems and essential infrastructure such as the electrical distribution grid lose power.
"The idea of an EMP attack is to detonate a nuclear weapon tens or hundreds of miles above the earth Electromagnetic waves from the nuclear explosion would generate pulses to overwhelm the electric grid and electronic devices in the same way a lightning surge can destroy equipment." We have been led to believe Iran has such weapons and even more sophisticated hi tech weapons.
In the worst possible scenario, regional power grids could be offline for months, potentially costing many deaths as people would eventually start running out of necessities like food and medicine. Lawmakers and the US military have been aware of the EMP threat for many years, as this news blog has reported. WSJ covered a 2008 report commissioned by Congress, the authors warned that an EMP attack would lead to "widespread and long-lasting disruption and damage to the critical infrastructures that underpin the fabric of US society."