North Korea unlikely to give up nuclear weapons, says US spy chief Dan Coats

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) – North Korea is unlikely to give up its nuclear capabilities, the top US intelligence official said, even as President Donald Trump expresses confidence he can persuade Kim Jong Un to disarm.

While Trump prepares for a second summit with Kim, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said in a report to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday (Jan 29) that “we continue to observe activity inconsistent with full denuclearisation.”

The intelligence community “continues to assess that it is unlikely to give up all of its WMD stockpiles, delivery systems, and production capabilities,” Coats said, referring to weapons of mass destruction.

“North Korean leaders view nuclear arms as critical to regime survival.”

Beyond North Korea, Coats said in a written summary of the intelligence community’s annual “Worldwide Threat Assessment” that threats to national security will “expand and diversify in the coming year” as China and Russia “compete more intensely” with the US – and as their interests converge.

He also cited strains with allies under Trump’s “America First” policies.

Without naming the president, Coats said some US allies and partners are “seeking greater independence from Washington in response to their perceptions of changing US policies on security and trade” and are pursuing their own new partnerships.

CYBERSECURITY THREATS

Coats also highlighted cybersecurity threats.

“China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea increasingly use cyber operations to threaten both minds and machines in an expanding number of ways – to steal information, to influence our citizens, or to disrupt critical infrastructure,” he said.

Coats said Moscow is preparing cyber attack capabilities that would “allow it to disrupt or damage US civilian and military infrastructure during a crisis” and Iran and North Korea pose increasing threats to the US government and companies.

Predicting a continuation – and potentially an escalation – of interference in US elections, he said “our adversaries and strategic competitors probably are already looking to the 2020 US elections as an opportunity to advance their interests.”

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