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North Korea 'unlikely' to give up nukes, top US intelligence chief says despite Donald Trump's optimism

North Korea 'unlikely' to give up nukes, top US intelligence chief says despite Donald Trump's optimismNorth Korea is “unlikely” to give up its nuclear weapons program, America’s most senior intelligence chief has said, in stark contrast to Donald Trump’s optimistic comments on securing a breakthrough.  Dan Coats, the US director of national intelligence, said that North Korea’s leaders see keeping their nuclear arsenal as crucial to “regime survival”.  Mr Coats also warned there was evidence that Kim Jong-un’s regime was taking actions “inconsistent” with its declared support for denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.  The remarks, which came during an appearance by six US intelligence chiefs before the Senate Intelligence Committee, jar with the US president’s public views on the stand-off.  Mr Trump has repeatedly played up the prospect of North Korea denuclearising since he met with Kim, the country’s leader, during a historic summit in Singapore in June 2018.  Donald Trump, the US president, and Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, shake hands during a summit in Singapore Credit: AP Photo/Susan Walsh The US president tweeted shortly after that meeting that “there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea”. On another occasion he joked that him and Kim “fell in love” with each other.  Mr Coats is a former Republican senator who serves in Mr Trump’s cabinet. The role he holds was created after the September 11 attacks and co-ordinates America’s 17 different intelligence agencies.  In his prepared opening remarks on North Korea for a hearing about worldwide threats, Mr Coats begun by playing up the areas of progress in the relationship.  He said: “The regime has halted its provocative behavior related to its WMD program. North Korea has not conducted any nuclear-capable missile or nuclear tests in more than a year and it has dismantled some of its nuclear infrastructure. Christopher Wray, FBI director, Gina Haspel, CIA director, Daniel Coats, director of National Intelligence, and General Robert Ashley, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, [left to right], at the Senate Intelligence Committee Credit: SAUL LOEB / AFP "As well, Kim Jong-un continues to demonstrate openness to the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula." But Mr Coats went on: “Having said that, we currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival. "Our assessment is bolstered by our observations of some activity that is inconsistent with full denuclearisation .” The assessment that North Korean leaders do not actually want to give up their nuclear weapons program challenges a central tenant of the Trump administration’s stance for talks.  Mr Trump has repeatedly talked up the chance of a breakthrough and has touted Kim’s support for denuclearisation – though at times has made clear he does not know where talks will end.  Critics have warned that the North Korean regime is not really willing to give up its weapons, despite its leadership’s public statements. Mr Trump and Kim are due to hold a second summit in late February. A location is yet to be announced. During their appearance on Capitol Hill, the intelligence chiefs made a number of stark comments that underlined the scale of threats facing America and other nations.  Mr Coats singled out the “big four”  – Russia, China, Iran and North Korea – as he warned a “toxic mix” of competitors, regional powers, failed states and non-state groups were threatening America. He said that more than a 1,000 Isil fighters remain in Syria and Iraq and that the terror group is plotting resurgence.  The remark comes as Mr Trump withdraws America’s 2,000 troops from Syria after declaring Isil had been defeated – a decision that triggered a fierce backlash from allies and the resignation of defence secretary Jim Mattis.  Mr Coats noted that China and Russia’s relationship is now closer than for “many decades”, an alliance that would have significant impacts on geopolitics if it continues to solidify.  He also warned that the 2020 US presidential election was viewed by adversaries as “an opportunity to advance their interest", raising the prospect of more foreign interference. He said protecting US elections was a “top priority”.



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North Korea unlikely to give up nuclear weapons: U.S. spy chief Coats

North Korea unlikely to give up nuclear weapons: U.S. spy chief CoatsNorth Korea is unlikely to give up its nuclear weapons capabilities despite recent moves indicating it was open to such actions, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said on Tuesday. Coats said North Korea has halted its provocative behavior related to weapons of mass destruction, has not conducted any nuclear missile tests in more than a year and has dismantled some of its nuclear infrastructure.



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NATO chief says Trump's funding gripes having 'real results'

NATO chief says Trump's funding gripes having 'real results'NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Sunday that US President Donald Trump’s regular complaints about the alliance had not undermined it — adding that his criticism on defense spending was having a positive impact. Trump has frequently blasted members of the 29-nation western security partnership for not paying more into their national defense budgets. Before taking office, he called NATO “obsolete” and recent media reports said he spoke to senior officials last year about pulling out.



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Hezbollah chief warns Israel against continuing strikes in Syria

Hezbollah chief warns Israel against continuing strikes in SyriaThe chief of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement has warned Israel against continuing strikes in Syria targeting mainly Iranian positions, saying it could fuel war in the region. Israel’s army has since 2013 claimed hundreds of attacks on what it says are Iranian military targets and arms deliveries to Tehran-backed Hezbollah, with the goal of stopping its main enemy Iran from entrenching itself militarily in neighbouring Syria. In the latest strikes nearly a week ago 21 people were killed, the majority of them Iranians, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor.



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Venezuela military chief declares loyalty to Maduro and warns US not to intervene

Venezuela military chief declares loyalty to Maduro and warns US not to interveneVenezuela’s military chief has declared his support for president Nicolas Maduro and warned the US not to intervene – a move that may be crucial if the man sworn in for a second term two weeks ago is to cling on to power. As Britain became the latest nation to recognise opposition politician Juan Guaido as the country’s president, military forces loyal to Mr Maduro took to the airwaves to declare their support for him. In a televised speech on Thursday, defence minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez said Mr Maduro was the country’s legitimate president and that the opposition was seeking to carry out a coup.



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US Navy chief hints aircraft carrier could be sent through Taiwan Strait, despite threat of new Chinese missiles

US Navy chief hints aircraft carrier could be sent through Taiwan Strait, despite threat of new Chinese missilesThe US Navy could still send an aircraft carrier through the Taiwan Strait in spite of Chinese military technology advances which pose a greater threat to American warships than ever before, the US chief of naval operations has said. Such an operation would inevitably increase the risk of military conflict between the world’s largest superpowers, which are currently locked in an escalating trade war and ongoing disputes over territorial claims in the South China Sea. Washington sent ships through the strategic waterway, which separates Taiwan from the Chinese mainland, three times last year, but has not dispatched a carrier in more than 10 years.



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The Latest: Police chief calls 14-year-old's death 'tragic'

The Latest: Police chief calls 14-year-old's death 'tragic'TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — The Latest on the police shooting of a 14-year-old burglary suspect in Arizona (all times local):



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'I never worked for Russia': Trump hits out at 'dirty cops' who launched probe after he sacked FBI chief

'I never worked for Russia': Trump hits out at 'dirty cops' who launched probe after he sacked FBI chiefDonald Trump, the US president, declared on Monday that he has "never" worked for Russia as he hit out at reports that he was investigated by the FBI over alleged ties to the Kremlin.  The US president delivered a definitive rejection of claims that the FBI investigated whether he was acting on Russia's behalf when he sacked James Comey, the bureau's director, in 2017.  It came after he refused to say "no" when asked if he was working for Russia in a Saturday night interview, instead saying: "I think it's the most insulting thing I've ever been asked". On Monday morning Mr Trump said: "I never worked for Russia… I think it’s a disgrace that you even ask that question because it’s a big fat hoax." Mr Trump's comments followed a New York Times report over the weekend that the FBI's senior officials became so concerned by the president's behaviour they began investigating why he was taking steps that appeared to benefit Russia and were against American interests. Trump tells reporters he never worked for Russia t.co/GSGKn0wqaupic.twitter.com/npzuP6pUAh— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) January 14, 2019 The fact that the FBI is investigating whether Mr Trump obstructed justice by firing Mr Comey has long been public knowledge, but these are the first claims of a wider investigation into the president and his motives. According to the NYT, counterintelligence officers looked into whether the president’s actions posed a potential threat to national security and whether Mr Trump was knowingly acting in Russia's interests or had unwittingly fallen under its influence.  Mr Trump described the FBI leaders who launched the probe as "known scoundrels". He added: "I guess you can say they are dirty cops." It is not clear what conclusions the FBI probe reached and what its status might be now. The Fake News gets crazier and more dishonest every single day. Amazing to watch as certain people covering me, and the tremendous success of this administration, have truly gone MAD! Their Fake reporting creates anger and disunity. Take two weeks off and come back rested. Chill!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 14, 2019 Speaking outside the White House, Mr Trump told reporters that it was good to have strong relationships with Russia, China and India. "I have relationships with almost everybody and that's a good thing not a bad thing," he said. In a separate development on Monday, CNN said it had obtained transcripts of two FBI officials' closed-door interviews with the US Congress interviews which appeared to confirm that the FBI leadership looked at whether Mr Trump fired the Mr Comey "at the behest of" Russia. According to document seen by CNN, James Baker, the FBI's top legal adviser at the time, told congressmen that the FBI officials were considering whether Mr Trump was "acting at the behest of [Russia] and somehow following directions, somehow executing their will." "That was one extreme. The other extreme is that the president is completely innocent, and we discussed that too," Mr Baker told an investigation by the House of Representatives last year.  "There's a range of things this could possibly be. We need to investigate, because we don't know whether, you know, the worst-case scenario is possibly true or the president is totally innocent and we need to get this thing over with – and so he can move forward with his agenda."



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Former Obama housing chief Julian Castro joins 2020 campaign

Former Obama housing chief Julian Castro joins 2020 campaignSAN ANTONIO (AP) — Assailing President Donald Trump for "a crisis of leadership," former Obama Cabinet member Julian Castro joined the 2020 presidential race Saturday as the rush of Democrats making early moves to challenge the incumbent accelerates.



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Polish Central Bank Chief Is Questioned in Watchdog Scandal

Polish Central Bank Chief Is Questioned in Watchdog ScandalThe latest in a string of central bankers from emerging Europe becoming involved in legal probes, Glapinski has rebuffed calls to step down from opposition parties that are demanding a parliamentary investigation into bribery allegations against the former head of the Financial Supervisory Commission. In November, Latvia’s anti-corruption bureau said it was carrying out a criminal probe involving central bank governor Ilmars Rimsevics.



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