U.S. President Donald Trump's pick for intelligence chief singled out North Korea on Tuesday as one of the most challenging issues, calling Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions and provocations something that needs laser focus.
Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN), who has been named to be director of national intelligence, made the remark during a Senate confirmation hearing, as he laid out a series of security challenges the U.S. faces around the world.
"The threats that we face today are more challenging, dynamic and geographically diffuse than ever before," Coats told the hearing before naming cyberthreats, Islamic terrorism, Russia and China as examples.
"And North Korea's nuclear ambitions, and quite frankly, provocations are something the intelligence community needs to be laser focused on," he said.
Coats said that China's continued regional activism, including its disputed territorial claims in the East and South China Seas, is troubling and will be a long-term challenge for the United States.
He also said that Russia's assertiveness in global affairs is "something I look upon with grave concern, which we need to address with eyes wide open and a healthy degree of skepticism."
Fears of the North's nuclear and missile programs have grown significantly in the U.S. since last year as Pyongyang carried out a number of weapons tests, including two nuclear tests and a series of ballistic missile launches, at a rapid pace unheard of before.
Adding to the concerns were North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's threat last month to test-fire an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking the U.S., and the test-firing of a newly developed intermediate-range ballistic missile earlier this month. (Yonhap)