The United States should be prepared to launch preemptive strikes on North Korea, including a nuclear attack if necessary, before the communist nation uses its nuclear bombs that could "kill 90 percent of Americans," a former CIA chief said Wednesday.
James Woolsey, who served as CIA director from 1993-95, made the case in an op-ed piece in the Hill newspaper, arguing that the U.S. is erroneously underestimating Pyongyang's capabilities to deliver nuclear weapons by missile, freighter and even satellite.
"Why do the press and public officials ignore or under-report these facts? Perhaps no administration wants to acknowledge that North Korea is an existential threat on their watch," Woolsey said in the article, titled "How North Korea could kill 90 percent of Americans."
"Whatever the motives for obfuscating the North Korean nuclear threat, the need to protect the American people is immediate and urgent. The U.S. must be prepared to preempt North Korea by any means necessary, including nuclear weapons," he said.
Woolsey rejected the official U.S. intelligence assessment that the North has not yet demonstrated mastery of the technology to build an intercontinental ballistic missile reentry vehicle or to miniaturize nuclear weapons small enough to fit atop an ICBM capable of reaching the U.S.
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"Any nation that has built nuclear weapons and long-range missiles, as North Korea has done, can easily overcome the relatively much simpler technological challenge of warhead miniaturization and reentry vehicle design," he said, adding that the North's road mobile KN-08 and KN-14 missiles appear to be equipped with sophisticated reentry vehicles.
Even if the North were not yet able to deliver nuclear weapons by missile, it can still deliver one "hidden on a freighter sailing under a false flag into a U.S. port, or hire their terrorist allies to fly a nuclear 9/11 suicide mission across the unprotected border with Mexico," Woolsey said.
"In this scenario, populous port cities like New York, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, or big cities nearest the Mexican border, like San Diego, Phoenix, Austin, and Santa Fe, would be most at risk," he said. "A Hiroshima-type A-Bomb having a yield of 10-kilotons detonated in a major city would cause about 200,000 casualties from blast, thermal, and radiation effects."
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The North could use a satellite to deliver a small nuclear warhead designed to make a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack against the U.S., he said.
"According to the Congressional EMP Commission, a single warhead delivered by North Korean satellite could blackout the national electric grid and other life-sustaining critical infrastructures for over a year, killing 9 of 10 Americans by starvation and societal collapse," he said.
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