The US director of national intelligence says North Korea poses an existential threat to the United States.
Speaking at the Senate Intelligence Committee’s annual hearing on “Worldwide Threats” on Tuesday, Dan Coats warned that time is running out for Washington to decide how it wants to respond to Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.
“Decision time is becoming ever closer in terms of how we respond to this,” Coats said. “Our goal is a peaceful settlement. We are using maximum pressure on North Korea in various ways.”
Coats added that the North’s nuclear drive is a problem for the United States.
He claimed the US wants to settle the issue peacefully, and to do so it uses maximum pressure in various ways.
Coats also told the American senators that they expect North Korea to launch additional missile tests this year.
“In the wake of accelerated missile testing since 2016, North Korea is likely to press ahead with more tests in 2018, and its Foreign Minister said that Kim (Jong-un) may be considering conducting an atmospheric nuclear test over the Pacific Ocean,” he said.
Last year, North Korea conducted dozens of missile launches and its sixth and largest nuclear test, in defiance of UN sanctions. However, it has now been more than two months since its last missile test in late November.
Last month, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said North Korea could be only “a handful of months” away from being able to make a nuclear attack on the United States.
Pompeo also told Tuesday’s hearing that despite the North-South talks, there was “no indication there’s any strategic change” in North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s desire to remain a nuclear threat to the United States.
The warning came despite an easing of tensions on the Korean Peninsula after talks resumed between North and South Korea, and as the North participated in the Winter Olympics hosted by the South.