February 2, 2016—Another North Korean Satellite Launch—Hmmm . . .

February 2, 2016—Another North Korean Satellite Launch—Hmmm . . .

North Korea is reportedly preparing to launch a satellite with the potential of detonating a nuclear weapon a hundred miles or so over the United States — possibly soon to be followed by its strategic ally, Iran. The resulting electromagnetic pulse (EMP) could destroy our unhardened electric power grid — leading to the death of most Americans within the following year. It’s long past time to counter this threat!

Recent news has been dominated by political issues — especially Hillary’s Benghazi and email scandals, the Iowa and subsequent caucuses/primaries, and the upcoming Super Bowl. While these are important and interesting matters, they have eclipsed an even more important development — one that has urgent existential implications for all Americans. 

Late last week, several press reports indicated that North Korea is preparing their Sohae satellite complex to launch another satellite, to their south, of course, as previously.  See, for example, reports by The Japan Times (Reuters), Great Britain’s Mirror Online, Yahoo News, and Space Daily.  Key summary points from these reports are:

  • Since their successful December 2012 satellite launch using the Unha-3 space launcher (on the development path for their Taepodong-2 ballistic missile and others in developing an ICBM capability), the North Koreans have been upgrading the Sohae launch complex to handle larger, longer-range rockets with heavier payloads.
  • Japan’s Kyodo News reported that anonymous government sources indicated satellite imagery showed increased movement at Sohae, suggesting a launch as early as this week.
  • Analysts at the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University said the activity at Sohae was low-level, suggesting any launch preparations were in the “early stages,” but added: “However, it is important to note that there is a high level of uncertainty about this judgement for a number of reasons and Pyongyang may be further along in its preparations.”
  • Most experts say Pyongyang is still years away from a credible ICBM capability that could threaten the U.S. mainland. However, these experts usually ignore the threat from a nuclear weapon carried on a satellite—a capability already demonstrated more than three years ago as noted above. (More below.)
  • Given the suspicious activity at Pyongyang’s main satellite launch complex, Defense Minister Gen Nakatani ordered (as prior to North Korea’s 2012 satellite launch) Japan’s military to be ready to destroy any missile fired by North Korea that threatens Japan. (See the figure below.)
  • Would that U.S. leaders would (and could) do the same to protect Americans from an already demonstrated de facto North Korean Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS) first developed by the Soviets during the early days of the Cold War.

February 2, 2016—Another North Korean Satellite Launch—Hmmm . . . For a discussion of the development implications of the Unha-3, see Michael Elloeman’s February 13, 2013 Arms Control Association article, “Prelude to an ICBM? Putting North Korea’s Unha-3 Launch Into Context.” This article came on the heels of the above mentioned 2012 Unha-3 test — and little if anything has changed in the subsequent three years.

The above articles on preparations at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station also discussed the January 6, 2016 North Korean underground nuclear test and a possible connection between the two development activities. Most — like the Obama administration’s official public affairs position — say experts doubt North Korea’s claim that they successfully conducted a Hydrogen Bomb (H-Bomb) test because it was demonstrated too small a seismic signal to be an H-Bomb.

I dealt with this incorrect assumption in my January 12, 2016 message. The North Koreans could plausibly be testing a low-yield Enhanced Radiation Weapon (ERW), like those invented in the 1950s and developed in the 1960s and 70s and actually deployed in operational systems.  

A notable exception to these recent reports was a detailed January 29, 2016 report by CNN’s Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr that Pentagon officials had reexamined the seismic data from the underground test and acknowledged that North Korea may well have tested an H-Bomb. Click here for Ms. Starr’s written article, which mentions the satellite launch preparations as well as these underground nuclear tests. Perhaps more important, this link also includes a substantive video report including both development activities.

Regrettably, Ms. Starr reported that the Pentagon — and perhaps other experts — continue to propagate the misunderstanding that a test of a H-Bomb would require a much larger yield weapon, implying a much larger seismic signal than observed on the January 6, 2016 test.

Prudence demands that we not engage is such hopeful speculation. Instead, we should be prepared for the satellite delivery of a relatively low-yield ERW to be detonated as it overflies the United States on in its initial orbit — as I have discussed repeatedly in previous email messages ever since first bringing up the EMP threat from North Korea in our December 20, 2012 message.

Long ago, we should have taken initiatives to end our vulnerability to such a North Korean ERW threat — whether from a satellite-detonated ERW as it passes over the United States or ballistic missile launched from a vessel off our coasts, especially from the Gulf of Mexico or Central America.

Our September 22, 2015 message summarized what we should do ASAP re. the satellite threat from the South — and our December 15, 2015 message repeated our recommended “quick fixes” for countering ballistic missiles launched from vessels off our coasts, especially from the Gulf of Mexico. No research and development is required for these “quick fixes,” just funding (and direction) to field the needed already developed systems. 

For example, if we have forward-based sensors to provide the needed tracking information our existing Aegis BMD ships or our Vandenberg AFB ground-based interceptors could shoot down satellites approaching the United States from the South. So a TYP-2 Radar, like those already deployed in several locations around the world, deployed in the Philippines could provide the needed tracking information to counter the North Korean satellite threat—provided the BMD crews are trained and authorized to shoot down the satellites. 

Therein lies a problem, previously discussed.  The crews must have authorization in advance or there will be inadequate time for them to execute the defensive shoot-down. This is a notable challenge—and should be achieved by a declarative policy by the President that authorizes such as shoot-down unless the North Koreans demonstrate that their satellite launches do not carry nuclear weapons. Such verification could be accomplished by extensions of technical methods used to verify previous treaties.

This recommendation is much less intrusive than the 2006 recommendation in a Washington Post article by current Defense Secretary Ash Carter and then Former Defense Secretary Bill Perry that President Bush destroy North Korean long-range ballistic missiles (or by implication satellite launchers) on their launch pads. 

(Gabriel Schoenfeld’s  January 31, 2016 Wall Street Journal review of Perry’s recent book — “My Journey at the Nuclear Brink,” revealed that as Defense Secretary Perry had grimly advised President Clinton that he might have to choose “between a disaster and a catastrophe” by using cruise missiles to destroy North Korea’s long-range  ballistic missile testing capability.  The 2006 Carter-Perry article passed an extension of this unheeded recommendation on to President George W. Bush.  Whatever.) 

We could also counter the threat from the Gulf of Mexico by deploying on several coastal military bases the same Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense (BMD) system now operating in Romania and scheduled to be operational in Poland in 2018. And there is no reason for delaying this initiative a moment longer. 

Finally, we should understand that Iran has long had a strategic alliance with North Korea — and Iran now is flush with funds released by the recent terrible “Deal with Iran”—the Obama administration’s unverifiable executive agreement that at best legitimizes a delayed Iranian pathway to nuclear weapons. Iran can buy a bomb from North Korea (or Pakistan), even if they don’t develop one of their own. 

As Former UN Ambassador John Bolton recently observed, “Iran won’t stay bought . . . there’s every reason to believe they’ve been working together [with North Korea] on nuclear weapons.” He also observed on The Cats Roundtable on AM 970 in New York: The region’s bad players “know they’ve got one more year of Barack Obama, and they’re going to take advantage of it.”

Iran is of course developing ballistic missiles to deliver these nuclear weapons — as illustrated by two recent tests that violated UN Agreements to which they were a party. They, like the North Koreans also have launched satellites to their south — that can carry such a ERW to attack the United States from our undefended South. And as far back as in the late 1990s, they launched ballistic missiles from vessels in the Caspian Sea. So once they have nuclear weapons, they or their surrogates could launch ballistic missiles from off our coasts, particularly from the Gulf of Mexico.

Our October 13, 2015 message reported that the Commander of Northern Command Admiral William Gortney emphasized that this threat was urgent and so we again recommended “quick fixes.” Still, to the best of my knowledge, the “powers that be” have done nothing and continue to court disaster.

Stay tuned.

Near Term High Frontier Plans.

We will continue to inform our readers of the looming threats we confront — and where appropriate urge them to engage in countering that threat.  We will press for building the most cost-effective ballistic missile defenses possible and working with South Carolina folks to build a coalition to engage constructively with private citizens and their local and state representatives and other authorities to work with the SC National Guard in understanding and responding to the existential threats to the electric power grid.

We are especially focused on the nuclear power reactors that produce 60-percent of SC electricity—and more generally 20-percent of the nation’s electricity. If it can be assured that they “operate through” a major blackout of the electric power grid — and I believe it can, then these reactors can play a very important role for resurrecting the grid over an extended time and supporting the general public’s survival in the meantime.

What can you do?

Join us in praying for our nation, and for a rebirth of the freedom sought, achieved and passed to us by those who came before us.

Help us to spread our message to the grass roots and to encourage all “powers that be” to provide for the common defense as they are sworn to do.

Begin by passing this message to your friends and suggest they visit our webpage www.highfrontier.org, for more information. Also, please encourage your sphere of influence to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter.

Encourage them to review our past email messages, posted on www.highfrontier.org, to learn about many details related to the existential manmade and natural EMP threats and how we can protect America against them. I hope you will help us with our urgently needed efforts, which I will be discussing in future messages.

Click here to make a tax deductible giftIf you prefer to mail a check, Please send it to 500 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314.

E-Mail Message 160202


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