There is likely a misconception prevalent among the American people that North Korea, a nation with a nuclear weapons arsenal, does not have the capability to deliver nuclear warheads to the United States. That is not the case. Even though the international media continues to report North Korean missile test failures and even a few successes, the current consensus remains that Pyongyang does not have the ballistic capability to fire nuclear weapons that will reach the U.S. That point in itself might be debatable, although there is evidence to suggest that it, too, is not an accurate assessment of North Korea’s missile or nuclear potential. In fact, according to a couple of experts, North Korea is not only more than capable of delivering a nuclear strike to the U.S. mainland, but it is capable of actualizing far worse — such as launching a nuclear attack that could kill 90 percent of all Americans.
In an Op-Ed on The Hill, R. James Woolsey and Vincent Pry, both formerly with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), pointed out that North Korea has not only had the capability, according to military and intelligence experts, of delivering nuclear weapons to the U.S. mainland since 2008, it has been able to place miniaturized nuclear warheads on ballistic missiles that can reach the United States. Woolsey and Pry note that most Americans have been kept in the relative dark about North Korea’s actual nuclear arsenal and their weapons programs by the mainstream media and certain authorities and politicians who continue to assert that Pyongyang has not “demonstrated” that it can miniaturize a nuclear warhead that can sit atop a ballistic missile and/or construct a missile capable of being an intercontinental threat, a missile that can reach space and make reentry to deliver a payload.
But thinking in these narrow lanes is extremely shortsighted because even if North Korea did not have an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) or a compact nuclear weapon, the absence of either does not obviate other methods of delivery that, when all is said and done, are still effective. As Woolsey and Pry point out, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) could easily “deliver an atomic bomb hidden on a freighter sailing under a false flag into a U.S. port or hire their terrorist allies to fly a nuclear 9/11 suicide mission across the unprotected border with Mexico. In this scenario, populous port cities like New York, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, or big cities nearest the Mexican border, like San Diego, Phoenix, Austin, and Santa Fe, would be most at risk.”
And, according to the authors, North Korea has the capability of fitting a nuclear warhead on top of a ballistic missile (Lt. General Ronald Burgess, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, in 2011) and has developed the ability to miniaturize their nuclear weapons (Admiral William Gortney, then Commander of North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD, in 2015) — making the undemonstrated argument moot.
Ordering missile strikes, long-term missions, or suicide bomber targeting in the U.S. would take out certain cities or bases (if all nuclear weapons were to hit their assigned targets), but there is still every reason to believe that North Korea has a small nuclear weapons arsenal. And yet it only takes one small strategically placed — likely satellite controlled — nuclear warhead designed to make a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack against the United States to do the most damage.
“According to the Congressional EMP Commission, [of which co-author Vincent Pry is the current chief of staff] a single warhead delivered by North Korean satellite could blackout the national electric grid and other life-sustaining critical infrastructures for over a year—killing 9 of 10 Americans by starvation and societal collapse.”
Of course, this is a worst-case scenario, but blackouts in the past have shown that even a limited blackout can cause a cascade of outages. One well-placed EMP attack could easily cause electrical shutdowns across the U.S. Within days, as communications systems remain down and commerce grinds to a halt, people in urban and suburban areas will soon become desperate and territorial about existing resources, especially food. This will inevitably spread to rural areas as well. It will not take long for the nation to revert to barbarism and tribalism and, as the Commission report notes, see a massive die-off through starvation and societal collapse.
The moral of the story? North Korea should be taken a bit more seriously — by the American media, by politicians, by the American people, and by the world — when the DPRK state-run media talks about retaliation for an offense, or anytime it engages in some saber-rattling. Because the rogue state just might feel it necessary to fire the first shot in what might be seen as an inevitable escalation towards military confrontation. And because, when all is said and done, North Korea (or any other adversarial state, for that matter) does not need to lay waste the entire United States to win a nuclear war; it only needs one well-placed shot.
[Featured Image by curraheeshutter/Shutterstock]