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Top US intelligence chiefs are skeptical of North Korea's offer to talk about its nuclear weapons program

  • The director of national intelligence and the head of the Pentagon's intelligence agency were skeptical of news that North Korea would be open to denuclearization talks.
  • "Maybe this is a breakthrough. I seriously doubt it," Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told lawmakers.
  • U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, who is the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's proposition was "kind of a show-me."
Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats (L) and U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Robert P. Ashley (R), director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, answer questions during a hearing held by the Senate Armed Services Committee March 6, 2018 in Washington, DC.
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Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats (L) and U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Robert P. Ashley (R), director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, answer questions during a hearing held by the Senate Armed Services Committee March 6, 2018 in Washington, DC.

Two top U.S. intelligence chiefs on Tuesday expressed skepticism of North Korea's offer to hold talks with the U.S. to end the regime's nuclear program and suspend missile testing.

"All efforts in the past have failed and have simply bought North Korea time to achieve what they want to achieve," Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. "Maybe this is a breakthrough. I seriously doubt it."

The remarks follow South Korea's announcement earlier Tuesday that North Korea would be willing to hold talks with the United States on denuclearization and will suspend nuclear tests while those talks are underway.

U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, who is the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's proposition was "kind of a show-me."

In his opening remarks at the Senate on Tuesday, Ashley said the North Korean leader "shows no interest in walking away from his nuclear or ballistic missile programs." He added that Kim has "pressed his nation down a path to develop nuclear weapons and deliver them with ballistic missiles that can reach South Korea, Japan, Guam and the United States."

Reacting to the news of possible negotiations with North Korea, President Donald Trump tweeted that the world is "watching and waiting" for the rogue nation's next move.

The White House didn't immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment on the remarks Coats and Ashley made on Tuesday.

The United Nations has imposed significant sanctions to pressure North Korea to denuclearize, and yet the regime carried out its sixth nuclear test in September 2017. North Korea remains the only nation in the world to test nuclear weapons this century.

North Korea's rapidly expanding arsenal

The acceleration and frequency of testing show not only Kim's nuclear ambitions but also that the nation has developed something of an arsenal.

In 2017 alone, North Korea launched 24 missiles and carried out its largest nuclear test.

North Korea has three long-range missiles, two of which can hit the U.S., and will likely continue its nuclear and missile testing, Ashley wrote in a new worldwide threat assessment.

Ashley said he believes that "additional missile launches — from short range to intercontinental range — are a near certainty" as are further nuclear tests.

In addition, North Korea may have a stockpile of chemical agents, such as "nerve, blister, blood, and choking agents."

Meanwhile, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, or STRATCOM, Air Force Gen. John Hyten, said last week that "Korea is the most uncertain threat and the most dangerous, near-term threat."

He also weighed in on the threat of a potential war with North Korea.

"Anyone that wears a uniform does not want war. Goodness knows you don't want a war on that peninsula," he said. "If you've been there you know you don't want to go down that path."

The U.S. has approximately 28,500 troops in South Korea.