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U.S. intelligence: North Korea won't give up nukes

By
Danielle Haynes and Beverly Banks
FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies during a Senate Intelligence Committee Hearing on worldwide threats on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday. Photo by Alex Edelman/UPI
FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies during a Senate Intelligence Committee Hearing on worldwide threats on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday. Photo by Alex Edelman/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 29 (UPI) -- U.S. intelligence officials warned Tuesday that North Korea is unlike to relinquish all of its nuclear stockpile despite President Donald Trump's attempts to negotiate denuclearization with leader Kim Jong Un.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the Senate intelligence committee that North Korea is expected to retain its weapons of mass destruction capability and likely won't give them -- or the production thereof -- up.

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"Its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival," he said.

CIA Director Gina Haspel agreed.

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Pyongyang "is committed to developing a long-range nuclear-armed missile that would pose a direct threat to the United States," she said.

Trump is scheduled to hold talks with Kim about denuclearization in February, the second face-to-face meeting between the leaders in less than a year.

Coats also contradicted the Trump administration's assessment of nuclear activity in Iran, but did agree that it is involved in sponsoring terrorism in Europe and the Middle East.

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"We do not believe Iran is currently undertaking the key activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device," Coats said, acknowledging that Tehran has "publicly threatened to push the boundaries" of the Iran nuclear deal.

Meanwhile, Coats warned that foreign adversaries -- including China and Russia -- are trying to influence the upcoming 2020 presidential election using similar tactics used in 2016. He said those involved will likely refine their capabilities and learn from previous attempts at election meddling.

"U.S. adversaries and strategic competitors almost certainly will use online influence operations to try to weaken democratic institutions, undermine U.S. alliances and partnerships, and shape policy outcomes in the United States and elsewhere," he said.

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Coats and FBI Director Christopher Wray said social media companies are working with intelligence communities to prevent such interference after facing scrutiny over the 2016 election season.

Wray said there have been instances in which the tech companies have been able to "take action much more effectively and much more quickly against the information warfare that the Russians were engaged in."

"One of the bright spots between 2016 and 2018 is how much more cooperatively we are working with the social media companies," he said.

Coats said advancements in U.S. intelligence technology are important to deter future threats from foreign government adversaries.

"Election security is a top priority for the intelligence community," Coats said.

Several senators expressed concerns over new cyber threats from increasing cooperation between China and Russia.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, pressed Haspel about the U.S. Treasury Department's recent decision to lift sanctions on Russian oligarchs allied with President Vladimir Putin.

Haspel first evaded the question stating, "I don't think I'm expert enough to comment on the Treasury decision."

Frustrated with the initial response, Collins asked again if the CIA had expressed concerns over the U.S. Treasury's recent actions.

Haspel said the CIA did not raise concerns but did provide supporting intelligence about the oligarch in question.

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