Spy Chief Doubts Kim Will Scrap Nukes, Undercutting Trump's View


North Korea is unlikely to give up its nuclear weapons capabilities despite recent moves indicating it was open to such actions, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said on Tuesday.

On Jan. 19 Trump said he had had "an incredible" meeting with North Korea's nuclear envoy Kim Yong Chol in Washington and the two sides had made "a lot of progress" on denuclearization.

Adding fuel to such concerns was a remark that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made in a media interview earlier this month that the "security of American people" is the ultimate objective of the U.S.in its dealings with the North.

The U.S. was reportedly aware of that discussion late past year, and the report called this an attempt by Moscow to "intervene" in the high-stakes nuclear talks.

President Donald Trump is set to meet North Korea's Kim Jong-un in February.

Yet speculation emerged that the Trump administration might have shifted its focus away from denuclearization to the elimination of intercontinental ballistic missiles as a more realistic accomplishment.

The report also said the Islamic State group "remains a terrorist and insurgent threat" inside Iraq, where the government faces "an increasingly disenchanted public".

Though the Trump administration has been beating the drums of war with Iran ever since exiting the JCPOA nuclear deal last May, Coats and the spy chiefs told the senators that Tehran has remained party to the deal, and has not reactivated its nuclear program.

Coats also said some USA allies are seeking more independence, responding to their perceptions of Washington's changing policies on security and trade, and "are becoming more open" to new partnerships.

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The report said, as part of the deal, the Russians would operate the plant and transfer all byproducts back to Russia, reducing the risk that Pyeongyang could use the facility to make nuclear weapons.

The officials painted a multifaceted picture of the threat posed by China, as they were questioned repeatedly by senators about the No. 2 world economy's business practices as well as its growing worldwide influence.

"The capabilities and threat that existed a year ago are still there", said Lieutenant General Robert Ashley, the director of the Defence Intelligence Agency.

On Tuesday the intelligence chiefs stressed that Russian Federation had again tried to meddle in the 2018 midterm Congressional elections, and were poised - along with potential copycats like China - to do the same in the 2020 presidential campaign.

Sen. Mark Warner, the panel's top Democrat, said he was particularly concerned about Russia's use of social media "to amplify divisions in our society and to influence our democratic processes", and the threat from China in the technology arena.

Both countries may be seeking to influence the 2020 election, it says.

"I believe they will begin coordinating topics for the summit in order to draft a joint declaration in the DPRK-U.S. working-level negotiations, along with their working-level preparations for the second DPRK-U.S. summit such as safety and protocols", the NIS chief was quoted as telling the parliamentary intelligence committee.

Coats declined to respond when Sen. Trump has ordered a partial pullback of US forces this year, although no firm plan is in place. The Democratic National Committee circulated a memo Tuesday evening noting multiple press accounts of how the intelligence chiefs "contradicted" the president.

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