North Korea could be planning an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) strike on the US with two satellites already orbiting above the Earth, an expert has claimed.
Dr Peter Vincent Pry claims that Pyongyang may be secretly developing the ability to detonate a high-altitude nuclear weapon in space which would set off the pulse, wiping out electrical systems below.
The secretive kingdom is believed to have started a satellite programme during the 1980s and successfully launched two observation satellites in 2012 and 2016, which take an estimated 94 minutes to complete an orbit of the earth.
Dr Pry, executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security who sits a US Congress committee on EMPs, claimed North Korea is practising a “cyberage version” of battleship diplomacy so they can always have “one of [their satellites] very close to being over the United States”.
He said the North Koreans may use this as a bargaining chip if the US threatens to carry out military sanctions against the regime.
It follows months of increasingly aggressive rhetoric on both sides of the dispute over Pyongyang’s continued nuclear programme.
The Trump administration has warned that the Obama-era policy of “strategic patience” was over and the President has said he will solve the problem “with or without” China’s help.
Last week Donald Trump said he would like to resolve the situation peacefully but warned that a “major, major conflict” with North Korea is “absolutely possible”.
On the North Korean side, Pyongyang has threatened a “merciless response” to any US provocation.
Although people doubt North Korea has the technology to launch a direct attack on the US, experts warn they are getting closer and can still target Seoul or Tokyo.
Dr Pry said Pyongyang might be engaging in this different type of warfare after taking inspiration from a plan the Soviet Union drew up – but never carried out – to attack the US with an EMP during the Cold War.
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He told far-right US website Breitbart he believed that the recent rocket tests looked “suspiciously like practice for an EMP attack”.
But nuclear non-proliferation expert Jeffrey Lewis said the claims that an EMP strike could wipe electrical systems below was “silly”.
In an article for Newsmax, he pointed to a test carried out by the US in 1962 known as “Starfish Prime”.
Although the bomb detonated nearly 250 miles above the Pacific Ocean was 100 times larger than the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, the only recorded effect was the failure of one set of street lights in Honolulu.