Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said Tuesday North Korean nuclear forces are an “existential” threat to the U.S.
“This is an existential threat potentially to the United States but also to North Korea,” Coats said during the Senate intelligence hearing. “Kim Jong Un views any kind of kinetic attack or effort to force him to give up his nuclear weapons, is an existential threat to his nation and to his leadership in particular.”
He also said, however, that though the goal is for peace, the U.S. is applying “maximum pressure” on North Korea.
"The provocative nature and the instability that Kim has demonstrated potentially is a significant threat to the United States,” he said. “Our goal is a peaceful settlement. We are using maximum pressure on North Korea in various ways which can be described by my colleagues here. But we have to face the fact this is an existential problem for the United States.”
Vice President Mike Pence told the Washington Post in an interview published Sunday that the U.S. is willing to talk to North Korea, specifically about denuclearization.
“The point is, no pressure comes off until they are actually doing something that the alliance believes represents a meaningful step toward denuclearization,” Pence said. “So the maximum pressure campaign is going to continue and intensify. But if you want to talk, we’ll talk.”