U.S. National Intelligence Director Dan Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday during its annual worldwide threats hearing that North Korea's weapons of mass destruction will pose a significant danger to the U.S. and its allies in the near future.
"North Korea will be the most volatile and confrontational WMD (weapons of mass destruction) threat in the coming year," Coats said. "In addition to its ballistic missile tests and growing number of nuclear warheads for these missiles, North Korea will continue its long-standing chemical and biological warfare programs also."
Coats said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is determined to develop long-range nuclear missiles capable of striking the U.S., which Coats said Kim views as critical to his country's security.
"Kim also probably sees nuclear ICBMs as leverage to achieve his long term strategic ambition to end Seoul’s alliance with Washington and to eventually dominate the (Korean) peninsula."
Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo told lawmakers the U.S. and its allies "have built a global coalition pushing back against Kim Jong-un and his terror regime," and said he would disclose more information about the coalition's plans in a closed hearing later in the day.
Russia, Coats said, will continue to be the world's "most capable WMD power" and is "expanding its nuclear weapon capability."
Terrorism continues to be a major global threat, Coats said, including within U.S. borders.
"U.S.-based home grown violent extremist terrorism, including inspired and self-radical individuals, represent the primary and most difficult to detect Sunni terrorism threat in the United States."
Despite losing significant territory in Iraq and Syria, Coats said Islamic State "remains a threat" and will likely try to regroup in "ungoverned portions" of those countries. He said al-Qaida "will remain a major actor in global terrorism" and will remain "intent on attacking the United States and U.S. interests abroad."
Iran will "remain the most prominent state sponsor of terrorism and an adversary" in the Middle East, Coats said. He said he expects Iran will bolster its regional influence by exploiting "the fight against ISIS to solidify partnerships and translate battlefield gains into political security and economic agreements."
Coats also expressed concern that the "increasing, fractious political process" in the U.S. is threatening "our ability to properly defend our nation."
"The failure to address our long-term fiscal situation has increased the national debt to over 20 trillion (dollars) and growing," Coats said. "This situation is unsustainable, as I think we all know, and represents a dire threat to our economic and national security."