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Intel official Dan Coats says North Korea most volatile WMD threat


kim jong un
North
Korean leader Kim Jong Un in 2016.


Reuters


  • US Intelligence chiefs said Tuesday that North Korea
    will be one of the most confrontational threats to the US this
    year.
  • North Korea’s relentless push for nuclear weapons that
    could strike the US and its increasing cyberwarfare activities
    pose legitimate concerns for US national security, the
    officials said.
  • During the annual hearing on worldwide threats,
    officials also warned of the dangers posed by Russia, Iran, and
    China.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats issued a dire warning
Tuesday about the threat North Korea poses to the United States,
citing its intentions to amass weapons of mass destruction.

“North Korea will be the most volatile and confrontational WMD
threat in the coming year,” Coats said during a Senate
Intelligence Committee hearing on worldwide threats. “In addition
to its ballistic missile tests and growing number of nuclear
warheads for these missiles, North Korea will continue its
longstanding chemical and biological warfare programs.”

Coats also said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un views any effort
to force him to give up his nuclear weapons as an existential
threat to his grip on power, and that “decision time is becoming
ever closer in terms of how we respond to this.”

The Trump administration has called for a peaceful resolution to
curbing North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, but has not ruled
out preemptive military action.

North Korea started to accelerate its missile testing in 2016,
and Coats said it’s likely to continue with more aggressive
testing in 2018. He said the Hermit Kingdom has also leveraged
its cyber espionage capabilities to inflict harm on the US and
other Western countries, and will likely continue to do so.

Past attacks

In May 2017, malicious actors developed and launched the
so-called WannaCry ransomware to target computer systems around
the world, encrypting vital data and demanding ransom payments in
Bitcoin. The massive cyber attack destabilized operations in
hospitals, schools, businesses, and infrastructure across 150
countries.

Last December, the US officially blamed North Korean
hackers for the attack, even though Pyongyang had previously
denied any role, calling the accusation “ridiculous.”

US federal prosecutors have also suspected that North Korea was
behind the 2016 cyber theft of $81 million from the Bank of
Bangladesh and the massive cyber attack against Sony
Entertainment in 2014, which resulted in the leaks of thousands
of private emails, social security numbers, unreleased films, and
a complete data wipe of half of the company’s network.

Other threats


Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray; Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Mike Pompeo; and Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Dan Coats testify before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on
US
security chiefs testify before Senate Intelligence Committee
hearing on “worldwide threats” on Capitol Hill in
Washington.

Thomson
Reuters


At Tuesday’s hearing, Coats joined five other top intelligence
officials to brief lawmakers on global threats to the US. In
addition to North Korea, the officials specifically called out
the increasing threats posed by Russia, Iran, and China.

The intelligence chiefs unanimously agreed that Russia is likely
to pursue “even more aggressive cyber attacks” than what it has
previously undertaken “with the intent of degrading our
democratic values and weakening our alliances.”

“These states are using cyber operations as a low-cost tool of
statecraft, and we assess that they will work to use cyber
operations to achieve strategic objectives unless they face clear
repercussions for their cyber operations,” Coats said in prepared written remarks.


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