N. Korea restarts plutonium reactor: U.S. intelligence chief

WASHINGTON -- North Korea has expanded a uranium enrichment facility and restarted a plutonium reactor that could start recovering material for nuclear weapons in weeks or months, the U.S.

See Full Article

intelligence chief said Tuesday in delivering the annual assessment by intelligence agencies of the top dangers facing the country.

He also said Islamic militants and those inspired by the Islamic State group will continue to pose a threat to Americans at home and abroad, al-Qaida remains an enemy and the U.S. will continue to see cyber threats from China, Russia and North Korea.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that Pyongyang announced in 2013 its intention to refurbish and restart nuclear facilities, to include the uranium enrichment facility at Yongbyon and its graphite-moderated plutonium production reactor, which was shut down in 2007. Clapper said U.S. intelligence had assessed that North Korea has expanded Yongbyon and restarted the plutonium production reactor there.

Clapper also told the Senate Armed Services Committee in his opening statement that North Korea has been operating the reactor long enough that it could begin to recover plutonium "within a matter of weeks to months."

Both findings will deepen concern that North Korea is not only making technical advances in its nuclear weapons program, following its recent underground test explosion and rocket launch, but is working to expand what is thought to be a small nuclear arsenal. U.S.-based experts have estimated that North Korea may have about 10 bombs, but that could grow to between 20 and 100 by 2020.

North Korea on Sunday launched a rocket carrying an Earth observation satellite into space. The launch followed a Jan. 6 underground nuclear explosion that North Korea claimed was the successful test of a "miniaturized" hydrogen bomb. Many outside experts were skeptical and Clapper said the low yield of the test "is not consistent with a successful test of a thermonuclear device."

Clapper said that Pyongyang is also committed to developing a long-range, nuclear-armed missile that is capable of posing a direct threat to the United States, "although the system has not been flight-tested."

Islamic militants, Clapper said, will continue plotting against U.S. interests overseas and homegrown attacks will pose the most significant threat from violent extremists to Americans at home.

"The perceived success of attacks by homegrown violent extremists in Europe and North America, such as those in Chattanooga and San Bernardino, might motivate others to replicate opportunistic attacks with little or no warning, diminishing our ability to detect terrorist operational planning and readiness," he said.

"ISIL involvement in homeland attack activity will probably continue to involve those who draw inspiration from the group's highly sophisticated media without direct guidance from ISIL leadership," he said using an acronym for the militant group.

Clapper said U.S. information systems, controlled by the U.S. government and American industry, are vulnerable to cyberattacks from Russia and China. North Korea "probably remains capable and willing to launch disruptive or destructive cyberattacks to support its political objectives," he said.

Moscow "is assuming a more assertive cyber posture" that is based on its willingness to target critical infrastructure and carry out espionage operations even when those operations have been detected and under increased public scrutiny, Clapper said. Russia's cyber operations are likely to target U.S. interests in part to underpin its intelligence gathering to support Russia's moves in the Ukraine and Syrian crises, he said.

Clapper said China selectively uses cyberattacks against targets Beijing believes threaten Chinese domestic stability or regime legitimacy.

"We will monitor compliance with China's September 2015 commitment to refrain from conducting or knowingly supporting cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property with the intent of providing competitive advantage to companies or commercial sectors," he said.

On Afghanistan, Clapper said the country is at "serious risk of a political breakdown during 2016." He said waning political cohesion, rising activities by local powerbrokers, financial shortfalls and sustained attacks by the Taliban are eroding stability.

Associated Press writers Richard Lardner and Matthew Pennington contributed to this report.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Arkansas completes execution schedule, kills 4th person in 8 days

    World News CTV News
    VARNER, Ark. - Arkansas wrapped up an aggressive execution schedule Thursday, putting to death its fourth inmate in eight days. Kenneth Williams, 38, received a lethal injection Thursday night at the Cummins Unit prison at Varner for the death of a former deputy warden killed after Williams escaped from prison in 1999. Source
  • China asked North Korea to stop nuclear tests, Tillerson says

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON - U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Thursday that China has threatened to impose sanctions on North Korea if it conducts further nuclear tests. "We know that China is in communications with the regime in Pyongyang," Tillerson said on Fox News Channel. Source
  • Trump wants diplomatic solution on North Korea but warns 'major, major conflict' possible

    World News CBC News
    U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday a major conflict with North Korea is possible in the standoff over its nuclear and missile programs, but he would prefer a diplomatic outcome to the dispute. "There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Source
  • Taliban announce start of spring offensive in Afghanistan

    World News CTV News
    ISLAMABAD - Afghanistan's Taliban announced the start of their spring offensive Friday, promising to build their political base in the country while focusing military assaults on coalition and Afghan security forces. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid announced the launch of the offensive in an email statement that boasted Taliban control over more than half of the country, referencing a February report issued by Washington's special inspector general for Afghan reconstruction. Source
  • Trump to sign order aimed at expanding offshore drilling

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Working to dismantle his predecessor's environmental legacy, President Donald Trump plans to sign an executive order Friday that could lead to the expansion of drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. With one day left to rack up accomplishments before he reaches his 100th day in office, Trump will order his interior secretary to review an Obama-era plan that dictates which locations are open to offshore drilling, with the goal of the new administration to expand…
  • Sagkeeng First Nation holds vigil for Serena McKay

    Canada News CTV News
    Members of Sagkeeng First Nation in northern Manitoba gathered around a sacred fire on Thursday to mark the loss of yet another woman to violence. Serena McKay, 19, was found dead on Sunday. Two teens girls, ages 16 and 17, have been charged with second-degree murder. Source
  • Senators take Game 1 over Rangers thanks to captain Karlsson

    Canada News CBC News
    Erik Karlsson was hoping for a good bounce and got a great one. Karlsson's shot from an almost impossible angle beat Henrik Lundqvist with less than five minutes to go in regulation and snatched Game 1 for the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night. Source
  • TTC pulls bendy buses off the road over safety concerns

    Canada News CBC News
    The Toronto Transit Commission is grounding its entire fleet of articulated buses after maintenance staff experienced a "full throttle," or unexpected acceleration, during routine maintenance Thursday afternoon. The TTC says 153 of the 60-foot so-called bendy buses are now off the road. Source
  • Autistic man eating free cookies pepper-sprayed: Cops

    World News Toronto Sun
    ROSEVILLE, Minn. — A former security guard faces charges after allegedly pepper-spraying an autistic man who was eating free cookies at a Minnesota grocery store. Timothy Knutsen of St. Paul is charged with two misdemeanour counts of fifth-degree assault and disorderly conduct for the March incident at a Cub Foods in Roseville. Source
  • Star Trek inspired licence plate deemed offensive in Manitoba

    Canada News CTV News
    Manitoba’s public insurance company has revoked a Star Trek inspired custom licence plate after receiving complaints that it’s offensive. Nick Troller’s two-year-old plate reads “ASIMIL8.” Troller keeps it inside a licence plate holder that says: “WE ARE THE BORG. Source