WASHINGTON – Although the Trump administration often touts the “progress” being made in denuclearization talks with North Korea, the head of American intelligence told senators Tuesday that Kim Jong Un’s regime is “unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons.”
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said that on the positive side, North Korea “has halted its provocative behavior” by refraining from missile tests and nuclear tests for more than a year.
“As well, Kim Jong Un continues to demonstrate openness to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Coasts testified at a hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
But, despite that apparent openness, Coats said, “We currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities, and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities.”
“Our assessment is bolstered by our observations of some activity that is inconsistent with full denuclearization,” he added.
Coats said the North Korean leader and the rest of the country’s rulers “view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival.”
President Donald Trump plans to hold a second summit with Kim next month. The specific date and location have not yet been disclosed. The first, held in June 2018 in Singapore, was hailed as a breakthrough in U.S.-North Korean relations but critics say it has not yielded many concrete results.
Last week, Trump pushed back against news coverage that he felt downplayed his success in negotiating with Kim.
“The Fake News Media loves saying ‘so little happened at my first summit with Kim Jong Un.’ Wrong!” the president tweeted.
“After 40 years of doing nothing with North Korea but being taken to the cleaners,” Trump said he was able to get hostages released and the remains of U.S. troops returned “in a short 15 months.”
“No more rockets or M’s being fired over Japan or anywhere else and, most importantly, no Nuclear Testing,” Trump said. “This is more than has ever been accomplished with North Korea, and the Fake News knows it. I expect another good meeting soon, much potential!”
Coats testimony was based on an intelligence report, which predicted that security threats to the U.S. and its allies this year will expand and diversify, driven in part by China and Russia. The report says those nations have grown closer than at any other point since the mid-1950s and that their global influence is expanding.
Coats told the committee that Russia is likely to once again attempt to use social media and other means to influence the 2020 U.S. presidential election. And he said they are not likey to be the only nations trying to sway the outcome.
“Our adversaries and strategic competitors probably already are looking to the 2020 U.S. elections as an opportunity to advance their interests,” the intelligence report said.
“Russia’s social media efforts will continue to focus on aggravating social and racial tensions, undermining trust in authorities, and criticizing perceived anti-Russia politicians,” it said.
The report said Russia might try other methods as well, “such as spreading disinformation, conducting hack-and-leak operations, or manipulating data – in a more targeted fashion to influence US policy, actions, and elections.”
Contributing: The Associated Press