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Ex-CIA chief warns against underestimating N. Korea's nuclear arsenal

2017/03/01 03:54

WASHINGTON, Feb. 28 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's nuclear arsenal is believed to be more advanced and dangerous than many experts think, a former CIA director warned Tuesday, calling for urgent attention to the threats.

James Woolsey, who served as CIA chief from 1993-95, made the point in an article in the Wall Street Journal, saying the communist nation is taking the same path that the U.S. and other nuclear powers took, including Israel, South Africa, India and Pakistan.

"History suggests North Korea already has nuclear-missile warheads and a sophisticated array of nuclear weapons," he said in the joint article with Peter Vincent Pry, executive director of the EMP Task Force on National and Homeland Security.

The North built its first atomic weapon by 1994, more than a decade before testing, though the yield of North Korean nuclear tests isn't known, Woolsey said, adding that estimating yields from seismic signals is inexact.

"Less known: North Korea could conduct decoupled tests to hide their true yield. Decoupling entails detonating a device in a cavity to dampen the signal by as much as 10-fold. A 100 kiloton test could look like 10 kilotons.

"Low-yield tests may indicate more-advanced nuclear technology. High-yield testing is usually done for political reasons and to study nuclear-weapon effects. Low-yield testing is scarier because it is usually done to verify design principles for a more advanced generation of nuclear weapons," Woolsey said.

He also warned that the North has long-range ballistic missiles, the mobile KN-08 and KN-14. The missiles could strike the US. mainland and are probably nuclear-armed, he said.

In addition, Woolsey said that the Congressional EMP (electromagnetic pulse) Commission assesses that North Korea probably has nuclear arms specialized for electromagnetic pulse, what the Russians call "Super-EMP" weapons.

These warheads are low-yield as they are designed to produce gamma rays, not a big explosion, but they would cut off electricity, he said.

"The U.S. should immediately harden its national electric grid to deter and defeat a nuclear EMP attack. Further, it should quickly redeploy Aegis guided missile cruisers to America's most vulnerable regions," Woolsey said."

   "Looking to the future, President Trump must work with Congress to modernize the U.S. nuclear deterrent and revive President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative by deploying space-based missile defenses to render nuclear missiles obsolete," he said.

jschang@yna.co.kr

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