This Might Be Where the Very First Total Nuclear War Starts

And where billions of people die.

by War Is Boring

May 24, 2019

Undoubtedly, for nearly two decades the most dangerous place on Earth has been the Indian-Pakistani border in Kashmir. It’s possible that a small spark from artillery and rocket exchanges across that border might — given the known military doctrines of the two nuclear-armed neighbors — lead inexorably to an all-out nuclear conflagration. In that case the result would be catastrophic. Besides causing the deaths of millions of Indians and Pakistanis, such a war might bring on “nuclear winter” on a planetary scale, leading to levels of suffering and death that would be beyond our comprehension.

Alarmingly, the nuclear competition between India and Pakistan has now entered a spine-chilling phase. That danger stems from Islamabad’s decision to deploy low-yield tactical nuclear arms at its forward operating military bases along its entire frontier with India to deter possible aggression by tank-led invading forces. Most ominously, the decision to fire such a nuclear-armed missile with a range of 35 to 60 miles is to rest with local commanders. This is a perilous departure from the universal practice of investing such authority in the highest official of the nation. Such a situation has no parallel in the Washington-Moscow nuclear arms race of the Cold War era.

(This article by Dilip Hiro originally appeared at War is Boring in 2016.)

When it comes to Pakistan’s strategic nuclear weapons, their parts are stored in different locations to be assembled only upon an order from the country’s leader. By contrast, tactical nukes are pre-assembled at a nuclear facility and shipped to a forward base for instant use. In addition to the perils inherent in this policy, such weapons would be vulnerable to misuse by a rogue base commander or theft by one of the many militant groups in the country.

In the nuclear standoff between the two neighbors, the stakes are constantly rising as Aizaz Chaudhry, the highest bureaucrat in Pakistan’s foreign ministry, recently made clear. The deployment of tactical nukes, he explained, was meant to act as a form of “deterrence,” given India’s “Cold Start” military doctrine — a reputed contingency plan aimed at punishing Pakistan in a major way for any unacceptable provocations like a mass-casualty terrorist strike against India.

New Delhi refuses to acknowledge the existence of Cold Start. Its denials are hollow. As early as 2004, it was discussing this doctrine, which involved the formation of eight division-size Integrated Battle Groups. These were to consist of infantry, artillery, armor and air support, and each would be able to operate independently on the battlefield. In the case of major terrorist attacks by any Pakistan-based group, these IBGs would evidently respond by rapidly penetrating Pakistani territory at unexpected points along the border and advancing no more than 30 miles inland, disrupting military command and control networks while endeavoring to stay away from locations likely to trigger nuclear retaliation.

In other words, India has long been planning to respond to major terror attacks with a swift and devastating conventional military action that would inflict only limited damage and so — in a best-case scenario — deny Pakistan justification for a nuclear response.

Islamabad, in turn, has been planning ways to deter the Indians from implementing a Cold-Start-style blitzkrieg on its territory. After much internal debate, its top officials opted for tactical nukes. In 2011, the Pakistanis tested one successfully. Since then, according to Rajesh Rajagopalan, the New Delhi-based co-author of Nuclear South Asia: Keywords and Concepts, Pakistan seems to have been assembling four to five of these annually.

All of this has been happening in the context of populations that view each other unfavorably. A typical survey in this period by the Pew Research Center found that 72 percent of Pakistanis had an unfavorable view of India, with 57 percent considering it as a serious threat, while on the other side 59 percent of Indians saw Pakistan in an unfavorable light.

 

This is the background against which Indian leaders have said that a tactical nuclear attack on their forces, even on Pakistani territory, would be treated as a full-scale nuclear attack on India, and that they reserved the right to respond accordingly. Since India does not have tactical nukes, it could only retaliate with far more devastating strategic nuclear arms, possibly targeting Pakistani cities.

According to a 2002 estimate by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, a worst-case scenario in an Indo-Pakistani nuclear war could result in eight to 12 million fatalities initially, followed by many millions later from radiation poisoning. More recent studies have shown that up to a billion people worldwide might be put in danger of famine and starvation by the smoke and soot thrown into the troposphere in a major nuclear exchange in South Asia. The resulting “nuclear winter” and ensuing crop loss would functionally add up to a slowly developing global nuclear holocaust.

 

Last November, to reduce the chances of such a catastrophic exchange happening, senior Obama administration officials met in Washington with Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Raheel Sharif — the final arbiter of that country’s national security policies — and urged him to stop the production of tactical nuclear arms. In return, they offered a pledge to end Islamabad’s pariah status in the nuclear field by supporting its entry into the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group to which India already belongs. Although no formal communiqué was issued after Sharif’s trip, it became widely known that he had rejected the offer.

This failure was implicit in the testimony that DIA Director Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart gave to the Armed Services Committee this February. “Pakistan’s nuclear weapons continue to grow,” he said. “We are concerned that this growth, as well as the evolving doctrine associated with tactical [nuclear] weapons, increases the risk of an incident or accident.”

Strategic nuclear warheads

Since that DIA estimate of human fatalities in a South Asian nuclear war, the strategic nuclear arsenals of India and Pakistan have continued to grow. In January 2016, according to a U.S. congressional report, Pakistan’s arsenal probably consisted of 110 to 130 nuclear warheads. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, India has 90 to 110 of these.

China, the other regional actor, has approximately 260 warheads.

As the 1990s ended, with both India and Pakistan testing their new weaponry, their governments made public their nuclear doctrines. The National Security Advisory Board on Indian Nuclear Doctrine, for example, stated in August 1999 that “India will not be the first to initiate a nuclear strike, but will respond with punitive retaliation should deterrence fail.”

India’s foreign minister explained at the time that the “minimum credible deterrence” mentioned in the doctrine was a question of “adequacy,” not numbers of warheads. In subsequent years, however, that yardstick of “minimum credible deterrence” has been regularly recalibrated as India’s policymakers went on to commit themselves to upgrade the country’s nuclear arms program with a new generation of more powerful hydrogen bombs designed to be city-busters.

In Pakistan in February 2000, President General Pervez Musharraf, who was also the army chief, established the Strategic Plan Division in the National Command Authority, appointing Lt. Gen. Khalid Kidwai as its director general. In October 2001, Kidwai offered an outline of the country’s updated nuclear doctrine in relation to its far more militarily and economically powerful neighbor, saying, “It is well known that Pakistan does not have a ‘no-first-use policy.’”

He then laid out the “thresholds” for the use of nukes. The country’s nuclear weapons, he pointed out, were aimed solely at India and would be available for use not just in response to a nuclear attack from that country, but should it conquer a large part of Pakistan’s territory (the space threshold), or destroy a significant part of its land or air forces (the military threshold), or start to strangle Pakistan economically (the economic threshold), or politically destabilize the country through large-scale internal subversion (the domestic destabilization threshold).

Of these, the space threshold was the most likely trigger. New Delhi as well as Washington speculated as to where the red line for this threshold might lie, though there was no unanimity among defense experts. Many surmised that it would be the impending loss of Lahore, the capital of Punjab, only 15 miles from the Indian border. Others put the red line at Pakistan’s sprawling Indus River basin.

Within seven months of this debate, Indian-Pakistani tensions escalated steeply in the wake of an attack on an Indian military base in Kashmir by Pakistani terrorists in May 2002. At that time, Musharraf reiterated that he would not renounce his country’s right to use nuclear weapons first. The prospect of New Delhi being hit by an atom bomb became so plausible that U.S. Ambassador Robert Blackwill investigated building a hardened bunker in the embassy compound to survive a nuclear strike. Only when he and his staff realized that those in the bunker would be killed by the aftereffects of the nuclear blast did they abandon the idea.

Unsurprisingly, the leaders of the two countries found themselves staring into the nuclear abyss because of a violent act in Kashmir, a disputed territory which had led to three conventional wars between the South Asian neighbors since 1947, the founding year of an independent India and Pakistan. As a result of the first of these in 1947 and 1948, India acquired about half of Kashmir, with Pakistan getting a third and the rest occupied later by China.

Kashmir, the root cause of enduring enmity

The Kashmir dispute dates back to the time when the British-ruled Indian subcontinent was divided into Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan, and indirectly ruled princely states were given the option of joining either one. In October 1947, the Hindu maharaja of Muslim-majority Kashmir signed an “instrument of accession” with India after Muslim tribal raiders from Pakistan invaded his realm.

The speedy arrival of Indian troops deprived the invaders of the capital city, Srinagar. Later, they battled regular Pakistani troops until a United Nations-brokered ceasefire on Jan. 1, 1949. The accession document required that Kashmiris be given an opportunity to choose between India and Pakistan once peace was restored. This has not happened yet, and there is no credible prospect of it taking place.

Fearing a defeat in such a plebiscite, given the pro-Pakistani sentiments prevalent among the territory’s majority Muslims, India found several ways of blocking U.N. attempts to hold one. New Delhi then conferred a special status on the part of Kashmir it controlled and held elections for its legislature, while Pakistan watched with trepidation.

In September 1965, when its verbal protests proved futile, Pakistan attempted to change the status quo through military force. It launched a war that once again ended in stalemate and another U.N.-sponsored truce, which required the warring parties to return to the 1949 ceasefire line.

A third armed conflict between the two neighbors followed in December 1971, resulting in Pakistan’s loss of its eastern wing, which became an independent Bangladesh. Soon after, Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi tried to convince Pakistani president Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to agree to transform the 460-mile-long ceasefire line in Kashmir (renamed the “Line of Control”) into an international border. Unwilling to give up his country’s demand for a plebiscite in all of pre-1947 Kashmir, Bhutto refused. So the stalemate continued.

During the military rule of Gen. Zia al Haq from 1977 to 1988, Pakistan initiated a policy of bleeding India with a thousand cuts by sponsoring terrorist actions both inside Indian Kashmir and elsewhere in the country. Delhi responded by bolstering its military presence in Kashmir and brutally repressing those of its inhabitants demanding a plebiscite or advocating separation from India, committing in the process large-scale human rights violations.

In order to stop infiltration by militants from Pakistani Kashmir, India built a double barrier of fencing 12-feet high with the space between planted with hundreds of land mines. Later, that barrier would be equipped as well with thermal imaging devices and motion sensors to help detect infiltrators. By the late 1990s, on one side of the Line of Control were 400,000 Indian soldiers and on the other 300,000 Pakistani troops. No wonder Pres. Bill Clinton called that border “the most dangerous place in the world.”

 

Today, with the addition of tactical nuclear weapons to the mix, it is far more so.

Kashmir, the toxic bone of contention

Even before Pakistan’s introduction of tactical nukes, tensions between the two neighbors were perilously high. Then suddenly, at the end of 2015, a flicker of a chance for the normalization of relations appeared. Indian prime minister Narendra Modi had a cordial meeting with his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, on the latter’s birthday, Dec. 25, in Lahore.

 

But that hope was dashed when, in the early hours of January 2nd, four heavily armed Pakistani terrorists managed to cross the international border in Punjab, wearing Indian army fatigues, and attacked an air force base in Pathankot. A daylong gun battle followed. By the time order was restored on Jan. 5, all the terrorists were dead, but so were seven Indian security personnel and one civilian.

The United Jihad Council, an umbrella organization of separatist militant groups in Kashmir, claimed credit for the attack. The Indian government, however, insisted that the operation had been masterminded by Masood Azhar, leader of the Pakistan-based Jaish-e Muhammad — the Army of Muhammad.

As before, Kashmir was the motivating drive for the anti-India militants. Mercifully, the attack in Pathankot turned out to be a minor event, insufficient to heighten the prospect of war, though it dissipated any goodwill generated by the Modi-Sharif meeting.

There is little doubt, however, that a repeat of the atrocity committed by Pakistani infiltrators in Mumbai in November 2008, leading to the death of 166 people and the burning of that city’s landmark Taj Mahal Hotel, could have consequences that would be dire indeed. The Indian doctrine calling for massive retaliation in response to a successful terrorist strike on that scale could mean the almost instantaneous implementation of its Cold Start strategy. That, in turn, would likely lead to Pakistan’s use of tactical nuclear weapons, thus opening up the real possibility of a full-blown nuclear holocaust with global consequences.

Beyond the long-running Kashmiri conundrum lies Pakistan’s primal fear of the much larger and more powerful India, and its loathing of India’s ambition to become the hegemonic power in South Asia. Irrespective of party labels, governments in New Delhi have pursued a muscular path on national security aimed at bolstering the country’s defense profile.

Overall, Indian leaders are resolved to prove that their country is entering what they fondly call “the age of aspiration.” When, in July 2009, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh officially launched a domestically built nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, the INS Arihant, it was hailed as a dramatic step in that direction. According to defense experts, that vessel was the first of its kind not to be built by one of the five recognized nuclear powers — the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia.

India’s two secret nuclear sites

On the nuclear front in India, there was more to come. Last December, an investigation by the Washington-based Center for Public Integrity revealed that the Indian government was investing $100 million to build a top secret nuclear city spread over 13 square miles near the village of Challakere, 160 miles north of the southern city of Mysore.

When completed, possibly as early as 2017, it will be “the subcontinent’s largest military-run complex of nuclear centrifuges, atomic-research laboratories, and weapons- and aircraft-testing facilities.” Among the project’s aims is to expand the government’s nuclear research, to produce fuel for the country’s nuclear reactors and to help power its expanding fleet of nuclear submarines. It will be protected by a ring of garrisons, making the site a virtual military facility.

Another secret project, the Indian Rare Materials Plant near Mysore, is already in operation. It is a new nuclear enrichment complex that is feeding the country’s nuclear weapons programs, while laying the foundation for an ambitious project to create an arsenal of hydrogen bombs.

The overarching aim of these projects is to give India an extra stockpile of enriched uranium fuel that could be used in such future bombs. As a military site, the project at Challakere will not be open to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency or by Washington, since India’s 2008 nuclear agreement with the U.S. excludes access to military-related facilities.

These enterprises are directed by the office of the prime minister, who is charged with overseeing all atomic energy projects. India’s Atomic Energy Act and its Official Secrets Act place everything connected to the country’s nuclear program under wraps. In the past, those who tried to obtain a fuller picture of the Indian arsenal and the facilities that feed it have been bludgeoned to silence.

Little wonder then that a senior White House official was recently quoted as saying, “Even for us, details of the Indian program are always sketchy and hard facts thin on the ground.” He added, “Mysore is being constantly monitored, and we are constantly monitoring progress in Challakere.”

However, according to Gary Samore, a former Obama administration coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction, “India intends to build thermonuclear weapons as part of its strategic deterrent against China. It is unclear, when India will realize this goal of a larger and more powerful arsenal, but they will.”

Once manufactured, there is nothing to stop India from deploying such weapons against Pakistan. “India is now developing very big bombs, hydrogen bombs that are city-busters,” said Pervez Hoodbhoy, a leading Pakistani nuclear and national security analyst. “It is not interested in … nuclear weapons for use on the battlefield; it is developing nuclear weapons for eliminating population centers.”

In other words, as the Kashmir dispute continues to fester, inducing periodic terrorist attacks on India and fueling the competition between New Delhi and Islamabad to outpace each other in the variety and size of their nuclear arsenals, the peril to South Asia in particular and the world at large only grows. (Click to Source)

 

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‘US mainland in our nuclear strike range’, Kim Jong-un warns in New Year’s speech

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has declared his county a nuclear power in possession of technology capable of striking the US mainland should there be a need.

“The US mainland is in our nuclear strike zone,” Kim said in his New Year’s message which was broadcast on Chosun Central TV. “The United States will never start a war with me and our country,” and Pyongyang has “completed the creation of North Korea’s nuclear forces,” he added.

Tensions between Washington and Pyongyang reached unprecedented levels last year, as the North continued to pursue its missile and nuclear programs. Washington said all options, including a military solution, are on the table to tame North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. While the US is still on course to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis, Pyongyang has so far refused to negotiate its nuclear status.

In 2018, Kim promised to focus his country’s efforts on the “operational deployment” of nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles. At the same time, the North Korean leader said Washington“will never” be able to start a war of aggression against Pyongyang as long as the North remains a nuclear power.

Pyongyang had a busy time developing its nuclear and ballistic programs over the course of 2017, having staged 16 missile tests and conducting its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on September 3.

In light of recent success in his nuclear endeavor, Kim called for the “mass-production” of nukes and missiles to be used as a deterrent against the US and its allies.

However, despite maintaining a belligerent posture towards the US, Kim said that the North is open to talks with S. Korea. North Korea, he said, is also willing to take part in Pyeong Chang Winter Olympics scheduled to begin in February 2018. (Click to Source)

WAR DRUMS: North Korea says it will continue preparing ‘pre-emptive attacks with nuclear force’

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 North Korea promised on Saturday to continue preparing “pre-emptive attacks with nuclear force” in the face of U.S. “blackmail,” according to The Associated Press.

“Do not expect any change in its policy,” the state’s official media arm, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Saturday. “Its entity as an invincible power can neither be undermined nor be stamped out.”

KCNA said North Korea has been working toward “bolstering the capabilities for self-defense and pre-emptive attacks with nuclear force,” in response to ongoing “nuclear threat and blackmail and war drills” by the U.S.

North Korea has tested missiles at least 16 times in 2017, and threatened the use of a hydrogen bomb small enough to fit on a missile. More than one North Korean missile flew into the air space of neighboring Japan, and new models have flown to heights that some military analysts predict could reach the mainland U.S.

Increased provocations from North Korea have led to the implementation of crippling sanctions from the United Nations in the form of trade and crude oil bans, and bombastic rhetoric from President Trump.

Trump in August said he would unleash “fire and fury” on Pyongyang if it continued to threaten the U.S. (Click to Source)

Can The US Survive An EMP Attack?

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While there’s no question that a nuclear strike on the Continental US would be utterly devastating, it’s not the only way a rogue state like North Korea could kill millions of American civilians in one fell swoop.

Another possibility that is being studied by lawmakers and Pentagon officials is – like North Korea itself – a vestige of the Cold War. We’re of course referring to an electromagnetic pulse. By detonating a hydrogen bomb in just the right spot miles above the Earth’s surface, the North could permanently damage the US power grid – maybe even take it offline completely. By robbing entire swaths of the US of electricity, the North could precipitate thousands – if not millions – of deaths.

The North first threatened an EMP attack over the summer, and North Korean media and its people have mentioned it several times since.

Given the success of the North’s missile tests, Congress increased funding for the Commission to Assess the Threat to the US from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack as part of the National Defense Authorization Act back in September.

Last month, federal agencies and utility executives held GridEx IV, a biennial event where officials responsible for hundreds of local utilities game out scenarios in which North America’s power grid could fail. Unsurprisingly, with the North Korean threat looming, these discussions took on a whole new level of urgency, as Bloomberg explains.

This year, the event took on an added urgency given growing concern with a weapon straight out of the Cold War: an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, emanating from a nuclear blast – specifically, one delivered by a North Korean missile or satellite detonated miles above the Earth. Though GridEx IV didn’t pose this exact scenario, industry experts concede there’s no clear plan to deal with it.

 

An EMP could damage electronic circuits over large areas, depending on the configuration of the weapon and how high it was detonated, though there’s disagreement over how effective such a tactic would be. Scientists also emphasize that a nuclear bomb that hits a ground target is much more worrisome. Nevertheless, with North Korea’s increasingly successful missile and warhead tests in mind, Congress moved to renew funding for the Commission to Assess the Threat to the US from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.

 

In September, the commission’s top officials warned lawmakers that the threat of an EMP attack from a rogue nation “becomes one of the few ways that such a country could inflict devastating damage to the U.S.”

 

GridEx IV participants said the use of an EMP, however improbable, has been very much on their radar. Lisa Barton, executive vice president of Columbus, Ohio-based American Electric Power Co.’s transmission unit, said the Electric Power Research Institute, an industry research arm, was analyzing the risk. An EPRI report published this week emphasized that widespread damage was indeed possible from such an attack.

The consensus was hardly reassuring. How damaging would an EMP attack be? Well, nobody can say for sure. But according to a report from the Electric Power Research Institute, an EMP could easily trigger a “mass casualty event” – even if its impact was limited to a specific region, as one of their simulations suggested…

Still, the EPRI report paints a picture that’s hard to ignore. Simulations showed that detonating a nuclear weapon about 250 miles above the Earth using a 1.4 megaton bomb, almost 100 times more powerful than the one dropped on Hiroshima, would likely collapse voltage regionally, affecting several states but not the entire eastern or western networks. “None of the scenarios that were evaluated resulted in a nationwide grid collapse,” the report stated. Recovery time from a high-altitude EMP would depend on equipment damage, something the EPRI said it plans to study next year and “develop cost-effective options for mitigating.”

Fortunately, the operators of America’s power grids have some experience developing emergency response scenarios for an EMP. As it turns out, an EMP would essentially mimic the effects of an extremely powerful solar flare. Power grid operators are constantly on the lookout for flares, and have theorized what improvements might be needed to make power grids totally resistant.

PJM Interconnection LLC, operator of the power grid serving one-fifth of America’s population, has a lot of experience protecting systems against solar activity. PJM has also been working with transmission owners to protect against other threats, many of which have two specific characteristics: low probability and high potential for catastrophe, said Mike Bryson, vice president of operations for the Valley Forge, Pennsylvania-based operator. An EMP is one of them.

 

Power companies have made a few moves to protect against electromagnetic interference. Some grid operators and transmission infrastructure owners are putting in place so-called Faraday enclosures, shields of conductive material used to protect electronic equipment and facilities. Utilities have also started stockpiling spare parts to replace any that are damaged by an EMP event, storms or other disasters.

 

“I don’t think we have an illusion we will prevent it,” Bryson said in an interview. “That’s really the government’s job.”

Expensive fortifications known as Faraday cages could help diffuse the energy pulse, possibly stopping it from overwhelming a power grid. Another option would be installing automated control systems that would regulate the grid’s response to an EMP, potentially allowing it to recover more quickly.

Duke Energy Corp., one of the country’s largest utility owners, has been working with EPRI to study its threat to civilian infrastructure. Lee Mazzocchi, Duke’s senior vice president of grid solutions, said “we really want to use science and research to validate if and how much an EMP threat there could be.”

 

Jon Rogers, a scientist at Sandia National Laboratories, has been studying the threat since the 1990s. The lab has been looking at how automated control systems could help systems recover. Rogers noted that the grid already has lightning surge arrestors to protect against strikes, which could potentially be useful in case of an EMP. “There are open questions,” he said.

 

“Back in the Cold War, we worried about massive exchanges at the time with the Soviet bloc,” Rogers said. “There seems to be reduced concern about that and increased concern about a single or smaller surges and what that could mean.” Targeted attacks on specific elements of infrastructure are seen as more likely, including “using an EMP without going nuclear,” added Jeff Engle, vice president of government and legal affairs for United Data Technologies, a security services firm.

 

“EMP technology itself has been advancing with devices becoming smaller, more effective,” said Engle, who declined to give specific examples. Along these lines, the industry’s stance has been to prepare for less-intense EMPs from irregular lightning strikes, solar flares—and possibly localized attacks.

Researchers at the Edison Electric Institute believe an EMP would be tremendously damaging to a wide range of critical infrastructure…

For EMPs resulting from nuclear blasts, the Edison Electric Institute, an industry group, said the possible effects aren’t fully understood and proposed fixes remain unproven and impractical.

 

“Other sectors of the economy likely will be affected by a nuclear EMP attack, including other critical infrastructure sectors upon which the electric sector depends,” the group said in a 2015 paper titled Electromagnetic Pulses (EMPs):

 

Myths vs. Facts. “It makes little sense to protect the electric grid while ignoring these other critical infrastructure sectors.”

…But the costs of fending off such an attack would be astronomical – as one scientist put it. Making the entire US power grid immune to an EMP would cost hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars.

Richard Mroz, president of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, warned the cost of preventing widespread failures from an EMP would “be astronomical.” Placing transformers or a substations in shielded cages would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, he said, while protecting critical assets on a distribution system like New Jersey’s could reach into the billions of dollars.

 

“Managing that kind of threat right now—no one really has the resources to do that,” Mroz said.

As we pointed out back in October, one expert told Congress that an EMP could kill off 90% of the US population.  People who lived through the New York City blackout in 1977 will remember how lootings and crime exploded while the lights were out. A similar phenomenon would likely play out following an EMP, as law enforcement would be hobbled and powerless to contain criminal behavior.

Think about how Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated Puerto Rico by knocking out all communication and electricity infrastructure. Three months later, it has yet to be fully restored. Meanwhile, the death toll from the storms is on track to eclipse the thousands who died during Hurricane Katrina.

…Now imagine that scenario playing out across the entire Atlantic seaboard… (Click to Source)

North Korea Begins Tests to Load Anthrax Onto ICBMs, Report Says

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North Korea has begun tests to load anthrax onto intercontinental ballistic missiles, Japan’s Asahi newspaper reported Tuesday, citing an unidentified person connected to South Korea’s intelligence services.

 The report said the testing involves ensuring the anthrax survives the immense temperatures generated during re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. North Korea has a stockpile of between 2,500 tons to 5,000 tons of chemical weapons, and is capable of producing biological agents such as anthrax and smallpox, South Korea has previously said.

The Asahi report comes a day after the White House published its National Security Strategy, a document that said Pyongyang is “pursuing chemical and biological weapons which could also be delivered by missile.”

“North Korea — a country that starves its own people — has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons that could threaten our homeland,” the report said.

North Korea claimed it had completed its nuclear force after it fired a new Hwasong-15 ICBM in late November. South Korea assessed the missile — North Korea’s largest yet — could potentially fly 13,000 kilometers (about 8,000 miles) and reach Washington, though additional analysis was needed to determine whether it was capable of re-entry. (Click to Source)

North Korea Nuclear Tests Raise Fears of Radioactive Fallout

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SEOUL, South Korea — Another powerful blast at North Korea’s underground nuclear test site could destabilize the area and send radioactive material into the atmosphere, the head of South Korea’s weather agency said on Monday

“Should another nuclear takes place, there is that possibility,” Nam Jae-cheol, director of the Korea Meteorological Administration, told lawmakers inquiring about the potential for radioactive fallout.

North Korea has conducted six nuclear tests since 2006, all of them in tunnels buried deep under Mount Mantap in Punggye-ri, in North Hamgyong Province.

Fears that the repeated nuclear explosions might be destabilizing the mountain have spread since the North’s latest and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 3. The test produced between 50 and 300 kilotons of explosive energy, according to government and private estimates. In comparison, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, during World War II produced 15 kilotons.

Since the newest test, the authorities have detected four minor tremors from the test site, which some experts attributed to underground cave-ins caused by the powerful explosion. Commercial satellite imagery has also shown landslides and other earth deformations at the site.

An analysis of satellite imagery found a cavity as much as 300 feet wide under Mount Mantop, Mr. Nam told lawmakers on Monday during a parliamentary audit of his agency.

On Friday, The South China Morning Post reported that researchers at the Institute of Geology and Geophysics, an arm of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, had warned their North Korean counterparts of an implosion at the test site, 50 miles from the border with China.

A day after the Sept. 3 test, the newspaper quoted a senior Chinese nuclear scientist who warned that a future test could blow the top off Mount Mantop, causing radioactive contamination of the atmosphere.

Writing for the website 38 North, the researchers Frank V. Pabian and Jack Liu warned this month against “speculative fears,” saying that post-test tremors were not unusual. There was no reason to believe that North Korea would abandon Punggye-ri as a nuclear testing site, they said.

“While radioactive material would be released into the environment if the collapse occurred right after a test, the amount of fallout, even from a weapon in the 100 kiloton range, would likely only cause significant contamination in the vicinity of the site and perhaps a few hundred miles downwind,” said Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, which is based in Cambridge, Mass.

“Nevertheless, any amount of radioactive contamination of the environment from North Korea’s abhorrent nuclear test program is unacceptable and would add insult to injury,” he said.

The United States and its allies are accelerating their global campaign to apply sanctions and pressure against North Korea.  (Click to Source)

North Korea PLAGUE alert: Kim Jong-un could unleash BLACK DEATH in shock biowarfare attack

NORTH Korea is feared to be preparing for World War 3 by weaponising the Black Death for use in a biological warfare attack.

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A chilling new report claims Kim Jong-un’s regime could unleash the plague, cholera and other diseases across the US and South Korea.

The document, by Harvard University’s Belfer Centre, says Pyongyang may use missiles, drones or planes to spread the deadly viruses.

And it warns preparation against the devastating threat of biological warfare is “urgent and necessary”.

North Korea is thought to already have 13 pathogens in its weaponry, the researchers said, including anthrax, smallpox and yellow fever.

And scientists are feared to be weaponising the viruses in top-secret labs across the war-crazed rogue state.

The report states: “While nuclear programs can be monitored by the number of nuclear tests and the success of missile tests, weaponising and cultivating pathogens can stay invisible behind closed doors.

“Moreover, equipment used for BW [biological warfare] production are often dual-use for agriculture, making external monitoring and verification virtually impossible.”

The rogue state’s special forces could be used as “human agents” to spread the highly infectious diseases, it adds.

The terrifying document warns: “North Korea has 200,000 special forces; even a handful of those special forces armed with BW would be enough to devastate South Korea.

“What is alarming about human vectors is that they do not need sophisticated training or technology to spread BW amongst the targets, and they are difficult to detect in advance of an attack.”

The alert comes as North Korea continues to complete its huge nuclear arsenal, ramping up fears Kim could spark World War 3.

Soeul’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha yesterday said she expects the North to carry out further nuclear tests “at any time”.

She told Yonhap news agency: “Parts of its tunnel have been destroyed after the North conducted the sixth nuclear test.

“But it has more than one of them, so [an additional nuclear test] can be done at any time.” (Click to Source)

North Korea ‘months’ away from capability to nuke US, CIA Director Mike Pompeo says

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North Korea could acquire the ability to deliver a nuclear weapon to the United States within “months,” a top American spy official said Thursday.

“It is the case that they are close enough now in their capabilities that from a U.S. policy perspective, we ought to behave as if we are on the cusp of them achieving that objective,” Pompeo said during a question-and-answer session hosted by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“When you’re now talking about months, our capacity to understand that at the detailed level is in some sense irrelevant,” he said. “Whether it happens on Tuesday or a month from Tuesday, we are at a time where the president has concluded that we need a global effort to ensure that Kim Jong Un doesn’t have that capacity.”

Pompeo’s artful assessment didn’t disguise the urgency of the North Korea nuclear threat, as he allowed that “intelligence is imperfect” but emphasized that every nuclear weapon or ballistic missile test heightens the danger posed by the regime.

North Korea rattled the world with an unprecedented intercontinental ballistic missile test, followed by repeated launches of missiles over Japan in defiance of international sanctions.

“They are closer now than they were five years ago, and I expect they will be closer in five months than they are today, absent a global effort to push back against them,” CIA Director Mike Pompeo said Thursday. “It’s now a matter of thinking about, how do you stop the final step?”

The Trump administration has seen some success in rallying a “peaceful pressure” campaign, buttressed by dramatic shows of force in the region. The United Nations Security Council has passed stiff new sanctions designed to starve the North Korea of the finances necessary to fund the weapons programs.

Even those sanctions were gentler than the United States and western allies sought, however. Russia and China, which have long provided economic lifelines to North Korea, endorsed some sanctions but barred the UN from passing a total oil embargo and other measures.

Those countries have blamed the United States for the escalating crisis, even when they are willing to impose new sanctions. “Beefing up a military deployment around the peninsula is not in the interests of realizing denuclearization of the peninsula and maintaining peace and stability,” a Chinese diplomat said in August.

Some U.S. lawmakers believe that China will continue to insulate North Korea from the kind of pressure that could result in negotiations over their nuclear arms program. Pompeo emphasized that Trump is willing to use “military” force to avert the threat of a a strike on the United States, although he recognized the difficult of knowing when that’s necessary.

“We are diligently trying to refine that answer,” Pompeo said. “To think we’ll have granularity in days and weeks, I think, is something we all now have to accept we won’t have.”

If North Korea does take that “final step,” the regime still won’t be able to act with utter impunity, Pompeo noted. And U.S. intelligence agencies and diplomats will still have work to do.

“It’s one thing to be able to deliver a single missile along a certain set of trajectories to a certain destination,” he said. “Even once you hit the he-can-do-it once moment, there’s great risk that proceeds from the continuation of the development of those programs that far exceeds the moment that there is a consensus revolving around whether he can reliably pull it off for a single missile system.” (Click to Site)

Ready for war? US cuts ALL contact with North Korea over nuclear crisis

NORTH Korea and the US have cut all channels of talks amid the growing threat of war between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un.

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South Korean officials revealed Washington has severed all back channels with Pyongyang as both sides continue to talk up war.

The US quit any attempt to talk to Kim after he detonated his sixth and most powerful nuclear bomb last month.

War fears have been brewing as both sides ratchet up the rhetoric as Trump threaten to “totally destroy” North Korea.

Kim has threatened to detonate another nuclear bomb over the Pacific as tensions remain high.

Choung Byoung-gug, of South Korea’s opposition group the Bareun Party, revealed the US has cut all talks with the North.

Kim’s hydrogen bomb blast is believed to have been as powerful as 250 kilotons – more than 10 times the strength of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

World leaders condemned the blast which was seen as North Korea’s worth ever provocation of the West.

Mr Choung said: “I got the impression that there were talks up until the sixth nuclear test, and then they stopped.

“They told me they think the circumstances have changed.”

He added however the US reassured him there would be no military action without the consent of South Korea.

Trump however will defend their ally if Kim attacked the city of Seoul, Mr Choung said.

The devastating consequences of an attack on the South was revealed today by a North Korea watchdog.

It was predicted at least 2 million people would die if Kim launched a strike on South Korea.

Kim has not launched a missile or nuclear test since September 15, during which he fired a rocket over Japan.

Russia and China have both called for calm in the region amid the war talk from Trump and Kim.

President Vladimir Putin yesterday warned the US to back down over North Korea or risk triggering war.  (Click to Site)

As North Korea threatens electromagnetic pulse attack, questions over lapses in US grid security rise

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For more than 15 years, security and intelligence officials — including former CIA Director James Woolsey — have been raising the alarm bells about the vulnerability of the U.S. power grid to an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack. Only now as tensions with North Korea quickly escalate — with the rogue nation refusing to back down from its nuclear testing and threats of such an onslaught — is the matter really generating attention.

But according to U.S. defense and security officials, while there are players purporting to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure given millions of American lives on the line, the reality is that no one really knows what will happen and what can be done.

“We recognize that an EMP event would have extremely dire consequences for the entire country, but where the challenge comes is in attempting to quantify those impacts,” one high-ranking Department of Homeland Security official, who requested anonymity, told Fox News. “This is not something we have had a lot of real world experience with.”

Earlier this month, state news agencies in the Kim Jong Un-dictated country explicitly cautioned that it could hit the U.S. with an EMP offensive. A hydrogen bomb detonated at a high altitude would create an EMP that potentially could abolish prominent parts of the electrical grid. The higher the bomb’s detonation, the wider the scope of destruction. And given that high-altitude nuclear tests were prohibited as per a 1963 treaty, from the U.S. side, there is little scientific data to understand the devastation of a detonation on modern infrastructure.

But the potential fallout from such an event is monstrous. In 2001, Congress enacted the since-disbanded Commission to Assess the Threat to the U.S. with regards to an EMP event, with commissioners testifying that up to 90 percent of Americans could die within a year of such an attack. All the functions communities rely upon — hospitals, water, waste, transport, telecommunications, air control, medical care — could potentially be decimated for not days or weeks, but months or years.

“Our ability to know what would happen in the aftermath is highly uncertain. That being said, we are doing several things to deepen our understanding. There is a lot of information sharing,” noted the official. “We are looking at mitigation strategies and developing planning tools. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is involved too as there have been exercises and workshops related to catastrophic planning and EMP events. But DHS does not have authority to compel power operators to do anything, we do not have regulatory authority over grid operators.”

The U.S. electrical grid, which is deemed one of the most vital pieces of infrastructure in the country and serves more than 300 million, does not have one singular oversight body responsible for its safeguarding — hence authorities have cautioned that the magnitude of threat has fallen between the cracks.

“The military doesn’t think it is their job to make the grid resilient, even though 99 percent of their missions in continental United States rely on the civilian grid. The utilities don’t think it is their job because it is a national security problem. Besides, they don’t want to come up with the money, face more regulatory burdens or fool with making over parts of the grid with uncertain technical consequences,” lamented Frank Gaffney, Center for Security Policy President and Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy under President Reagan, who has long warned of EMP’s efficiency to bring down America. “And because of the sweetheart regulatory arrangement they have at the federal level, they have been able to avoid it.”

Rather, the private nonprofit North American Energy Reliability Company (NERC) makes  “best practices” recommendations to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). NERC, as the Electric Reliability Organization, said that they do develop mandatory and enforceable standards to help protect the bulk power system, including numerous security standards and take a risk-based “defense-in-depth” approach to protecting critical grid assets from all threats.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Energy (DOE) counterpart on security and preparedness efforts.

According to the DHS, financing grid security — given that it doesn’t fall under the responsibility of one particular office — could have been done through slight rate increases, but efforts are typically bound by red tape.

“If utilities want to increase their customer rates by one cent a kilowatt hour to help invest in a new effort for counter-terrorism or EMP they have to go to a public utility commission and convince them that these rate increases are beneficial and meet certain cost/benefit conditions,” said the official. “Frankly, public utility commissions are there to protect consumers and they tend to be skeptical and tend to really push utilities to think very hard about the times they come in and push for rate increases to help support these kinds of efforts. Unlike some other industries where they can immediately pass off costs to consumers, this is not the case with power companies. They are slower to move due to the regulatory environment they have to deal with.”

Risk analyst and policy expert Dennis Santiago observed that any effort to harden the U.S. power grid — including the oldest and most interconnected portions of it in the eastern United States, which are especially exposed to disruption due to their age and design — have fallen short at the public utilities level because of “more pressing threats like physical attack security and cybersecurity.”

“In the end, this process has left the U.S. with antiquated and vulnerable infrastructure,” he said. “There is no unified or specified commander charged with specifically marshalling America’s resources from the government and private sector into an active defense of the power grid. There are civil services and regulatory bodies mostly focused on energy as utilities but nothing looks like an energy version of a military defense command.”

However, DHS authorities, in conjunction with the Department of Energy, claim that even before North Korea’s provocations they started ramping up efforts — around a year ago — to make grid vulnerability higher on the priority list. The issue was always secondary to threats considered to be more acute by the intelligence community such as counter-terrorism post 9/11 and later cybersecurity and “more destructive type natural hazards.”

“If something happens in two weeks, we wouldn’t be able to close all the gaps of vulnerability,” pointed out the official. “But having looked at this issue for a number of years, we are taking appropriate action given our set of responsibilities and authorities.”

A spokesperson for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) additionally told Fox News that they are “constantly working with federal partners to identify threats and vulnerabilities that could impact the power grid” and, in coordination with the federal partners, are working to “mitigate threats and where appropriate work with the private sector.”

But beyond the North Korea threat, experts also bemoan that Iran, Russia and China too have assimilated EMP attack into their military creeds, posing a significant peril to the United States.

“The very existence of the nation is at stake,” Gaffney added. “We are facing explicit threats to use EMP against us from the North Koreans — and there is a lot of capability to execute such an attack in the hands of other enemies.” (Click to Site)

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