US spy chiefs break with Donald Trump on many threats to US

Coats said North Korea is unlikely to give up its nuclear weapons, while Trump has said the country no longer poses a threat.

US spy chiefs break with Donald Trump on many threats to US
Image Courtesy: Reuters

WASHINGTON: China and Russia pose the biggest risks to the United States and are more aligned than they have been in decades, U.S. intelligence leaders told senators on Tuesday, in testimony that repeatedly contradicted President Donald Trump`s statements on global threats.

While Beijing and Moscow seek to expand their global reach, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said, some American allies are pulling away from Washington in reaction to changing U.S. policies on security and trade.

"China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea increasingly use cyber operations to threaten both minds and machines in an expanding number of ways - to steal information, to influence our citizens, or to disrupt critical infrastructure," Coats said. He testified with the directors of the CIA, FBI and other top intelligence officials at the Senate Intelligence Committee`s annual hearing on worldwide threats.

"Moscow`s relationship with Beijing is closer than it`s been in many decades," Coats told the panel.

The intelligence chiefs` assessments broke with some past assertions by their boss, including on the threat posed by Russia to U.S. elections and democratic institutions and North Korea`s determination to denuclearize.

Coats said North Korea is unlikely to give up its nuclear weapons. Trump has said the country no longer poses a threat.

The intelligence officials also said Iran was not developing nuclear weapons in violation of the 2015 nuclear agreement, even though Tehran has threatened to reverse some commitments after Trump pulled out of the deal.

Senators expressed deep concern about current threats.

"Increased cooperation between Russia and China - for a generation that hasn`t been the case - that could be a very big deal on the horizon in terms of the United States," said Senator Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats.

ALLIES PULL AWAY

Coats also said some U.S. 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.

"The post-World War Two international system is coming under increasing strain amid continuing cyber and WMD proliferation threats, competition in space and regional conflicts," Coats said, using the acronym for weapons of mass destruction.

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 international influence.

"The Chinese counterintelligence threat is more deep, more diverse, more vexing, more challenging, more comprehensive and more concerning than any counterintelligence threat I can think of," FBI Director Christopher Wray said.