Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said Tuesday that North Korea poses an “evermore-increasing threat” to the United States.
Testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Coats pointed to the North Korean regime developing nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles, building up its conventional weapons, and threatening U.S. allies as evidence that Pyongyang is growing more dangerous.
Pyongyang is focused on developing the technology to mount a nuclear warhead on an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching much of the United States.
“North Korea continues to pose an evermore-increasing threat to the United States and its interests,” Coats said.
“Pyongyang is committed to fielding a long-range nuclear-armed missile capable of posing a direct threat to the United States, and modest improvements in North Korea’s conventional capabilities will continue to pose an ever-greater threat to South Korea, Japan, as well as U.S. targets in those countries,” he added.
Coats argued that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un believes his regime’s security depends on retaining nuclear weapons and developing missile technology.
“Pyongyang has repeatedly stated that it does not intend to negotiate its nuclear weapons and missiles away,” Coats said.
“Kim also probably sees nuclear ICBMs as leverage to achieve his long-term strategic ambition to end Seoul’s alliance with Washington and to eventually dominate the peninsula,” he added.
Later in the hearing, Sen. James Risch (R., Idaho) said the threat of North Korea is “at our doorstep.”
North Korea has continued testing missiles in recent months, even firing them over Japan. Nevertheless, South Korean President Moon Jae-in invited some North Korean officials to the Winter Olympic Games in the South, leading many in the media to consider it a diplomatic win for Pyongyang.