Directly contradicting President Donald Trump, U.S. intelligence agencies told Congress on Tuesday that North Korea is unlikely to dismantle its nuclear arsenal, that the Islamic State group remains a threat and that the Iran nuclear deal is working. The chiefs made no mention of a crisis at the U.S.-Mexican border for which Trump has considered declaring a national emergency.
Their analysis stands in sharp contrast to Trump's almost singular focus on security gaps at the border as the biggest threat facing the United States.
FBI Director Christopher Wray, CIA Director Gina Haspel and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats were presenting an update to the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence on their annual assessment of global threats. They warned of an increasingly diverse range of security dangers around the globe, from North Korean nuclear weapons to Chinese cyberespionage and Russian campaigns to undermine Western democracies.
Coats did note that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has expressed support for ridding the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons and over the past year has not test-fired a nuclear-capable missile or conducted a nuclear test.
"Having said that, we currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD (weapons of mass destruction) capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capability because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival," Coats told the committee.
The spy agencies' skepticism about North Korea is consistent with the intelligence agencies' views over many years and runs counter to Trump's assertion after his June 2018 Singapore summit with Kim that North Korea no longer poses a nuclear threat.
During a question-and-answer session with senators, Coats and other intelligence officials made clear their consensus view that North Korea is not yet moving toward disarmament and in some respects may be backtracking.
"The capabilities and threat that existed a year ago are still there," said the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley.
Plans for a follow-up summit are in the works but no agenda, venue or date has been announced. In the meantime, U.S. intelligence agencies are observing "activity that is inconsistent with full denuclearization," Coats said, without offering details.
More broadly, the intelligence report on which Coats and the heads of other intelligence agencies based their testimony predicted that security threats to the United States and its allies this year will expand and diversify, driven in part by China and Russia. It says Moscow and Beijing are more aligned than at any other point since the mid-1950s, and their global influence is rising.