North Korea poses 'existential' threat, U.S. intel chief warns

US intelligence
North Korea poses 'existential' threat, U.S. intel chief warns

13 May, 2017

State-led Russian hackers remain a "major threat" to the USA government and will keep up their attacks after seeking to influence the 2016 presidential vote, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said in an annual "Worldwide Threat Assessment".

That's according to National Intelligence Director Dan Coats, who is testifying Thursday before the Senate intelligence committee. Such "influence operations" will continue in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere, he said.

And Coats said that "homegrown violent extremists remain the most frequent and unpredictable terrorist threat to the United States homeland".

In Cuba, which is preparing for a historic transition to an era without a Castro in power at the beginning of next year, the government will focus on maintaining political control while managing a recession, Coats told the panel.

However, the U.S. intelligence chief also pointed out that low oil prices, sanctions and systemic problems are making Russia's modernization efforts more hard.

"The Russians have upped their game using social media and other opportunities in ways we haven't seen before", said Coats.

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"The intelligence community assesses that the political and security situation in Afghanistan will nearly certainly deteriorate through 2018, even with a modest increase in military assistance by the United States and its partners", he said. Among those options is one to reportedly send between 3,000 and 5,000 US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops to the country to participate in the training of the Afghan security forces. Stewart noted that North Korea has expressed the goal of creating an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tipped with a miniaturized nuclear weapon, and each test comes with progress towards that explicit goal. Coats called the Islamic State's branch in Afghanistan only a low-level developing threat to Afghan stability.

The hearing, which included the directors of six US intelligence agencies, covered a broad range of worldwide threats, from Venezuela to Afghanistan.

"We have to do something very different than we've been doing in the past", Stewart said.

"We assess that the regime will maintain its momentum on the battlefield provided, as it's likely, that it maintains support from Iran and Russian Federation", he said. The document notes that China, Iran and North Korea, as well as terrorists and criminals, are also threats.

"Tehran's public statements suggest that it wants to preserve the [nuclear deal] because it views the deal as a means to remove sanctions while preserving some nuclear capabilities", Coats told lawmakers.

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