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July 19, 2012
Notes from the Pentagon

North Korean EMP
Recent satellite navigation jamming by North Korea’s military near the demilitarized zone and a report in a Chinese journal are raising new fears that Pyongyang is developing electromagnetic pulse weapons.

A communist-owned monthly journal in Hong Kong reported last month that the GPS jamming of aircraft navigation systems that was traced to North Korea is part of asymmetric warfare capabilities of the reclusive communist state.

The Bauhinia journal article, by military commentator Li Daguang said the new capabilities threaten South Korea’s information and electronic warfare capabilities.

“North Korea has always planned to develop small-scale nuclear warheads,” the article said. “On this foundation, they could develop electromagnetic pulse (EMP) bombs in order to paralyze the weapons systems of the South Korean military — most of which involve electronic equipment — when necessary.”

In fact, Chinese analysts believe North Korea is working on small nuclear warheads that could produce “super-EMP bombs,” the report said. “Once North Korea achieves the actual war deployment of EMP weapons, the power of its special forces would doubtlessly be redoubled,” the report said. EMP bombs emit high-powered electronic magnetic waves that destroy or severely disrupt all electronics within a large area of the waves.

The bursts were first discovered during above-ground nuclear tests and several states are now developing EMP weapons that produce the same shock waves without having to produce a nuclear blast.

“Currently, many nations such as the United States and England, and including North Korea, are researching and developing EMP bombs,” the report said.

“A number of experts have analyzed the matter and believe that North Korea’s EMP studies have reached a rather high level. Even though there are differences between GPS-jamming radio waves and EMP, they both use electromagnetic waves.”

Peter V. Pry, a former CIA official who is executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security that advises Congress on EMP and other threats to the critical infrastructures, said the Chinese article on North Korean EMP highlights the problem of what the U.S. could face in the aftermath of a nuclear EMP attack by Iran or terrorists.

An EMP attack would be worse than the recent East Coast power disruptions that closed businesses and federal agencies, disrupted emergency services and communications, caused massive food spoilage, blacked out gas pumps and traffic signals and left millions without air conditioning during a heat wave.

Mr. Pry said the blackout was minor compared to a nuclear or natural EMP disaster.

“Rogue states or terrorists armed with a single nuclear weapon detonated at high-altitude over the United States could cause a protracted blackout nationwide, that would last months or years and might even be unrecoverable,” he said in an interview.

China carrier commissioning
After months of sea trials, China is set to formally deploy its first aircraft carrier on Aug. 1, according to U.S. officials.

The carrier is currently undergoing 25 days of sea trials in the Bohai Sea over the northern coast of China, and the Aug. 1 deployment will coincide with the anniversary of the founding the communist-ruled People’s Liberation Army.

Photos posted on the Chinese Internet also revealed that China will outfit the carrier with J-15 jet fighters, as a single J-15 was shown on the deck of the refurbished Soviet carrier known as the Varyag.

The ship was deceptively purchased by the Chinese in the late 1990, amid claims it would be turned into a floating gambling casino.

Since 2002, the ship has been completely outfitted as China’s first major power projection warship, and its deployment comes amid growing tensions in the South China Sea between China and Vietnam and China and Philippines over disputed islets in the resource-rich waters.

China’s financial newspaper Caixun reported July 5 that the carrier’s ninth sea trails would be carried out from July 5 to July 30 and that it likely will then be commissioned Aug. 1. The ship has been outfitted at a shipyard in Dalian, China.

U.S.-Egypt alliance
Reports from Egypt indicate that the Obama administration has entered into a covert alliance with the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

Egyptian news reports and commentary and at least one Egyptian official were quoted this week in reports as saying the Brotherhood and its leader, Egyptian President Muhammad Mursi, made the alliance after a meeting earlier this month between Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and following comments by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on the Egyptian presidential election results.

The covert deal is said to involve U.S. support for Mr. Mursi’s reinstating of the dissolved People’s Assembly in exchange for agreement by the Egyptians to support peace with Israel, a key target for the Islamists.

State loosens arms exports to Yemen
The State Department on July 3 — as Congress was out of session for Independence Day — published a notice in the Federal Register that is has loosened all U.S. arms sales to Yemen, a state described by the 9/11 Commission as a “sanctuary for terrorists.”

The regulation removed Yemen from the list of states that are prohibited from getting lethal arms and assistance from the United States.

Since 1992, International Traffic in Arms Regulations denied all arms exports to the Arab state on the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula.

Then in 2011, non-lethal assistance was approved for export.

“This rule removes the ITAR section 126.1 limitations on defense trade with Yemen,” the notice stated. “Less restrictive defense trade will further the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States.”

The notice said the Sanaa government has taken steps to stabilize the country including presidential elections held in February. It called Yemen a “critical partner of the United States.”

However, one U.S. official opposed to the relaxation of arms exports controls called the decision “crazy.”

“The effect of this rule is to permit [the] State [Department] to approve arms exports to Yemen without referral up the chain for exceptions, as was the case since the 1990s for Yemen,” the official said. “State is now treating Yemen, a country in the 9/11 report called a ‘sanctuary for terrorists,’ just like would treat Israel — or any other ally. They are nuts.”

Congress would have opposed the rule had it been put in place while the House and Senate were in session, the official said.

Yemen is currently facing a war with Islamist terrorists, including al Qaeda, who operate in large portions of the desert country.

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