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In this New Cuban Missile Crisis, Are We Already in Checkmate?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

This is the second part of an interview with Peter Pry who is one of the country’s leading experts on nuclear weapons and the threat of EMP (electro magnetic pulse) weapons.

Kelley: In September of 2014 you and I collaborated on an article which focused on North Korea’s development of an EMP weapon. You then described how they had put up a satellite that passes over DC and our Eastern Seaboard during each orbit and which could be easily armed with an EMP nuclear weapon. If we execute a preemptive strike, do we have any counter measures for that?

Pry: There are things we can do about it. We need to harden our grid.

Kelley: But given how rapidly this crisis is unfolding, isn’t it true that we don’t have two years, which is, as I understand it, the minimum time it would take to harden the grid?

Pry: I agree it’s not the answer to a crisis with North Korea.  James Woolsey (former CIA Director) and I have advocated in writing that we shoot down those satellites. They now have two up there.  The first one has been in orbit since 2012. It gets harder for us to take them out the more satellites they launch because what they’re doing is creating a constellation so that they always have one satellite over us.  We can’t let that happen because it would mean that the window of opportunity will be closed…if there are nukes on those satellites. We don’t know if they are nuclear- armed or not.

Kelley: So, let’s assume that both North Korea’s satellites orbiting above us are nuclear armed.  What does Trump do?

Pry: There’s a real possibility that there are super EMP weapons on those satellites. And there is a way to weaponize them so that you get detonation on demand or when it is intercepted. This means that you get a detonation wherever the interception happens.  You can’t shoot it down when it’s over the US or one of our allies.  You’ve got to take it out over broad ocean or over one of the polls so that it’ll do the least damage to humanity. 

Kelley: So, can the US take them out as part of a preemptive strike on North Korea?

Pry: It was easier to do so when there was just one up there.  Now that they’ve got two up there, you’ve got to take them out at the same time and when they are both over non-threatening locations.  We could still do that but what if they put a third up there? This is what I’ve been telling the Trump officials.  We’d then have to take out all three when each were not over the US or our allies.

Kelley: Let’s turn to their ICBM’s. How much time do we have before North Korea can reach the West Coast of the US with a nuclear-armed ICBM?

Pry: The mainstream view of this which is repeated over and over even by Trump Administration officials is that it could be as early as next year or within a few years. I disagree. I think they can already do that.  I think some of their KN08 and KN14 (long-range) missiles are already nuclear-armed. Just because they haven’t been flight tested means nothing.  They’re based on Russian road mobilized designs and launchers of Chinese designs. Both are proven.

Kelley: Why do you think the media and even the Trump Administration are so unwilling to tell us the truth about the threat posed by North Korea?

Pry: There is a double standard when it comes to North Korea. Nobody says that India or Pakistan or Israel doesn’t have nuclear-armed missiles simply because they haven’t demonstrated them. On April 16, 2013 Obama told the New York Times the Kin Jong Un could not deliver on his threats to strike the US with nuclear weapons because he didn’t want to accept responsibility for North Korea becoming a nuclear missile state on his watch and so that he wouldn’t have to face such an emergency and take drastic steps against the regime. His own Department of Defense assessed that North Korea had long-range nuclear missiles. That somehow didn’t get through to the press. It stinks to high heaven.

Kelley: If we launch a preemptive strike on North Korea, what will China do?

Pry: I think if we do it right and posture our strategic forces so that all ballistic missile submarines are at sea, our strategic bombers off their bases and in holding patterns up in the arctic, China will not put itself at risk to save North Korea.

Kelley: Neither would Russia?

Pry: Neither would Russia. But with respect to China, that scenario is only true for the present.  China is building up its nuclear arsenal. They’ve tested a MIRV (multiple intercontinental reentry vehicle) that can deliver ten warheads.  If they were to deploy 50 of them, they would have a superior first-strike capability against the US. But they don’t have that right now. We’ve got escalation dominance.  If we lose that, all bets are off.

Kelley: Why are China and Russia supporting this horrific regime in North Korea?

Pry: I believe the reason that both China and Russia are in this game with North Korea is that they hope to win without war. They are helping it go nuclear because they want North Korea to pose a threat to the US and to our allies in the region. They want the risk associated with our upholding the security guarantees of our allies to be so great that will give up and withdraw.  They know that Americans will not regard as a reasonable trade, placing Los Angeles or Chicago at risk to safeguard South Korea or Japan.  China and Russia would like to move us from Obama’s leading from behind to outright isolationism. And if that happens, China and Russia will have won this new Cold War. Sun Tzu said that the greatest victory is to achieve victory without fighting.  This is what North Korea’s nuclear weapons program means to them. But if we take out the North Koreans’ nuclear arsenal, I don’t think it’s in China or Russia’s plans to go to war for North Korea. (end of interview)

In December of 1941, after Pearl Harbor, FDR made the monumental decision to ask Congress for a declaration of war on bothJapan and Germany even though Japan not Germany mounted the attack. Today both China and Russia have interests in keeping the North Koreans in possession of their short and long-range nuclear weapon threat.  And given that, it seems that President Trump has an even bigger decision to make because if he does or doesn’t act militarily, a miscalculation could lead to a nuclear world war. 

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