As President Trump's rhetoric intensifies following North Korea appearing to successfully test launch an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Tuesday, former CIA Director James Woolsey is warning that the United States has been "seriously vulnerable" to a surprise attack for years.
"We've been seriously vulnerable to an attack from North Korea for at least four years," Woolsey said to AOL.com.
While the former Clinton-era CIA director says the country's ongoing development of nuclear weapons is concerning, it's the prospect of North Korea utilizing the Fractional Orbital Bombardment System, or FOBS, in a surprise attack on the United States that he finds "extremely troubling."
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"What's troubling here is that they [North Korea] could launch a satellite with a nuclear weapon in it toward the South Pole instead of toward the North Pole where we don't have any radar or sensors covering that area," Woolsey said. "We have a few ships with sensors on them but not much else that can detect a launch coming for us from the South."
"That use of Fractional Orbital Bombardment System is extremely troubling and it would make it easier for the North Koreans to be able to come at us from the South."
FOBS was developed by the Russians during the Cold War as a secret weapon which could deliver a surprise electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, attack via a satellite. And according to Woolsey the Russians have shared this technology with not only China but also with North Korea.
According to the executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security Peter Vincent Pry, Woolsey is right to be concerned with the United States' vulnerability to an attack from the South.
"North Korea's KMS-3 satellite is in low-Earth orbit, along with hundreds of other satellites. KMS-3's South polar trajectory approaches the United States from the South, where there are no ballistic missile early warning radars or national missile defenses," Pry wrote in 2016. "The U.S. is blind and defenseless from that direction."
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Some experts have even less faith in the U.S. military's capability of defending against a strike from North Korea.
"Over the next four years, the United States has to increase its current capacity of our deployed systems, aggressively push for more and faster deployment," Riki Ellison, founder of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, said.
And Michael Elleman, a fellow for Missile Defence at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said that while North Korea remains steps from creating a dependable nuclear option, "there are absolutely no guarantees" that the United States can protect itself.
Ultimately Woolsey said the attention being granted to North Korea's recent test of an ICMB distracts from the fact that the country has been able to hit the United States hard for years.
"All of this back and forth and attention to the fact that now they have an intercontinental ballistic missile conveniently ignores the fact that they [North Korea] have been able [to] reach intercontinental ranges for a while now."
"The U.S. has ignored that threat from North Korea for four years, but I can promise you the North Korean's have not forgot about it."