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

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The director of national intelligence says Russian Federation and other countries, including China, North Korea and Iran, are using cyberspace to target USA and its allies, and will do so in future.

He said that al-Qaeda and its network continue to pose a "significant terrorist threat overseas, as they remain primarily focused on local and regional conflicts".

"We assess at Moscow's strategic objectives in Ukraine, maintaining long-term influence over Kyiv and frustrating Ukraine's attempts to integrate into western institutions, will remain unchanged in 2017", Coats said.

The intelligence community will continue to dedicate resources to the problem, he said.

His comments came as Trump is set to receive Pentagon reccomendations this week on potential options in Afghanistan.

The heads of six US intelligence agencies reviewed a slew of national security challenges facing the United States, warning about deteriorating security in Afghanistan, China's rising challenge, and Russian and other countries' use of cyberspace to target the USA and its allies.

For the Trump Administration, facing a question whether to increase the United States troop levels in Afghanistan, this can't be good news. 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.

According to Defense One, Coats spoke to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and talked about the growing number of threats facing the homeland and potentially shrinking the agencies that handle them. "The Taliban are likely to continue to make gains, especially in rural areas", said the USA spy chief, adding that efforts to bolster local military have been less fruitful than hoped. Iran has long used its space program as cover for illicit missile work, as the know-how needed to launch such equipment can be applied to long-range ballistic missile technology.

"First, our adversaries are becoming bolder, more capable and more adept at using cyberspace to threaten our interests and shape real-world outcomes", said Coats.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo, also testifying, said that China has been exerting pressure on North Korea "in a way that they have not made before" and has significantly cut coal imports from the country.

But he said China can and should do more.

Last year's report similarly stated that while the United States does not know whether the Iranian government will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons, but added that "Iran's implementation of the JCPOA, however, has extended the amount of time Iran would need to produce fissile material for a nuclear weapon from a few months to about a year".