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U.S. designates N. Korea among four countries challenging U.S. interests

All Headlines 04:03 September 16, 2009

By Hwang Doo-hyong

WASHINGTON, Sept. 15 (Yonhap) -- North Korea is among four countries that will challenge U.S. national interests in the coming years, a U.S. intelligence report said Tuesday.

The 2009 National Intelligence Strategy report, which appeared on the Web site of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, cited North Korea's nuclear and missile capabilities and their possible proliferation.

"North Korea continues to threaten peace and security in Northeast Asia because of its sustained pursuit of nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities, its transfer of these capabilities to third parties, its erratic behavior and its large conventional military capability," said the quadrennial report compiling information from 16 U.S. intelligence agencies.

Three other countries cited are Iran, China and Russia.

The Barack Obama administration is considering sending Stephen Bosworth, special representative for North Korea, to Pyongyang to persuade the North to return to the six-party talks, which the North has said it will boycott for good due to international sanctions after its nuclear and missile tests earlier this year.

Pessimists say the Obama administration may have to eventually count North Korea as a nuclear weapons state, although Washington currently pledges to press hard for the North's complete denuclearization.

North Korea conducted its second nuclear test in May after one in 2006, and is believed to possess several nuclear warheads, along with ballistic missiles capable of reaching the mainland U.S.

The intelligence report comes on the heels of a poll last month that described North Korea as the biggest security threat to the U.S.

"Seventy-five percent of Americans describe North Korea as an enemy of the United States," while "Iran is seen an enemy by 70 percent of adults," Rasmussen Reports, an electronic public opinion pollster, said in a survey of 1,000 Americans conducted between Aug. 6 and 9.

"Both are developing nuclear weapons and refuse to listen to the United Nations and other international mediators who are trying to talk them out of it," the report said. "They are also the nations that sizable majorities of Americans consider to be the biggest enemies of the United States."

Rasmussen picked Iraq and Afghanistan as the next biggest threats, with 41 and 40 percent ratings each.

The DNI report, meanwhile, cited Iran for its "nuclear and missile programs, support of terrorism and provision of lethal aid to U.S. and coalition adversaries."

"China shares many interests with the United States, but its increasing natural resource-focused diplomacy and military modernization are among the factors making a complex global challenge," the report said.

Russia, meanwhile, is "a U.S. partner in important initiatives such as securing fissile material and combating nuclear terrorism, but it may continue to seek avenues for reasserting power and influence in ways that complicate U.S. interests."

The report also predicted that non-state actors such as terrorist groups and transnational criminal organizations will challenge U.S. national interests by:

-- the possible use of nuclear weapons if they can acquire them to attack the United States

-- attempting to destabilize vulnerable states in regions of strategic interest to the United States

-- potentially penetrating and corrupting strategically vital markets

-- destabilizing certain nation states, and

-- providing weapons, hard currency and other supports to insurgents and violent criminal factions.


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