Blunt Talk About North Korea’s Hydrogen Bomb Threat

north korea nuclear map

North Korea’s detonation of a hydrogen bomb, and President Kim Jong-un’s claim that that the hermit kingdom can mount such a device atop an ICBM, has resulted in a deeply worried reaction among American civilian and military. Much of the general analysis in the mainstream media has missed several key factors.

As viscerally satisfying as it is to discuss a preemptive strike or other direct military action in response, the reality is that both Russia and China have delivered not-so-subtle messages that they will assist Pyonyang in any armed confrontation. This shouldn’t come as a surprise.  Washington needs to clearly and openly understand that Kim Jong-un couldn’t have achieved this level of  conventional, nuclear and missile proficiency without outside help, both technological and, particularly, economic.  North Korea’s vast conventional, as well as its atomic, prowess directly helps both Moscow and Beijing in their long-range goals of the expansion of their power throughout the globe.

The key questions is, Should Washington risk what will essentially be a world war? To answer that, another question must be asked: Does the Pentagon have the ability to prevail in such a conflict?

 In 2012, the Obama Administration abandoned the long-held policy of having a U.S. military equipped to fight a two-front war.  Inexplicably, this was done at the same time that it was becoming increasingly evident that the alliance of China and Russia, as well as the cooperation in missile and nuclear technology between those two and Iran and North Korea, was becoming increasingly evident.  This has become a larger issue as the threats from North Korea become more credible, dangerous and frequent.  It would be naïve to believe that if it were necessary to deploy additional American forces, for example, on the Korean peninsula, that Iran would not take advantage of U.S. weakness in the Middle East, or that Russia would not expand its aggression against Ukraine.

Direct threat to the United States

The stakes and dangers of the crisis in North Korea are significantly larger than has been discussed in the media so far.

The stakes and dangers of the crisis in North Korea are significantly larger than has been discussed in the media so far.

Some have attempted to downplay the threat to the U.S. based on the imbalance between U.S. and North Korean forces. However, it is now undeniably evident that almost the entire span of continental U.S. could be crippled by an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) attack from a single nuclear weapon detonated at a specific altitude.  An EMP attack would result in the deaths of up to 80% of the American population within less than a year.

In a 2015 letter to the Obama Administration, the EMP Task Force warned: “Russia and China have already developed nuclear EMP weapons and many believe others possess EMP weapons including North Korea and soon Iran-and likely their terrorist surrogates. For example, they could launch nuclear-armed short or medium range missiles from near our coasts, possibly hiding the actual sponsor from retaliation. North Korea and Iran have tested their missiles in ways that can execute EMP attacks from ships or from satellites that approach the U.S. from the couth where our ballistic missile warning systems are minimal…”


First, China and Russia must pay an enormous and unprecedented economic price for their role in Pyongyang’s, and, for that matter, Iran’s– nuclear program.  It is time to seriously consider—as stunning as it sounds—a program that lays out a clear timeline of severing economic ties between those two aggressor nations and the United States if Moscow and Beijing fail to rein in their client state.

Second, it is time to realize how precarious a situation the Obama disinvestment in defense has produced, and to be fair, the GOP failure to respond to that move. American industry must be placed on an emergency footing to make up for lost time.  Some of the expense of that costly endeavor will be made up for in the reinvigoration of the American manufacturing sector. Key allied nations, such as those in NATO allies, as well as Australia and Japan, must do their share, as well.

Frank V. Vernuccio, Jr., J.D.

Frank V. Vernuccio, Jr., J.D.

Frank Vernuccio serves as editor-in-chief of the New York Analysis of Policy and Government

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