ACCESSION NUMBER:374895 FILE ID:LEF210 DATE:01/17/95 TITLE:INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC ON NORTH KOREA (01/17/95) TEXT:*95011710.PFL *LEF210 01/17/95 INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC ON NORTH KOREA TR95011710 (Also discuss Russia, other issues at hearing) +lf (800) By Louise Fenner USIA Staff Writer WASHINGTON -- North Korea, Russia and the profileration of weapons of mass destruction remain the three major areas of concern to the U.S. defense intelligence community, but some cautious hope exists for progress in stablizing the Korean peninsula, says the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). 1 Lt. Gen. James R. Clapper Jr. told the Senate Armed Services Committee Jan. 17 that the recent U.S.-North Korean nuclear framework agreement, coupled with the leadership transition that occurred when longtime President Kim Il-Sung died last July and was succeeded by his son Kim Jong-Il, offers "the greatest promise of a significantly more stable Korean Peninsula than I have seen in the last 10 years." Clapper said he believes North Korea's leadership "now recognizes its chances for regime survival are better served by strategies emphasizing economic improvement and political-economic accommodation rather than those stressing implacable confrontation with the outside world." However, Clapper tempered his optimism by stressing that "thus far, we see no significant changes in North Korea's conventional military posture," and that "the nuclear framework accord has done nothing to diminish the North's current capabilities to conduct a war against the south." He concluded that North Korea itself "will remain a potentially very unstable place for the next few years." Adm. William O. Studemen, the acting director of the Central Intelligence Agency who joined Clapper in briefing the committee on worldwide threats to U.S. security, noted in his prepared statement that North Korea "has taken small steps to open the economy to the outside world, but has show no indication to reduce military spending." He also noted out that North Korea "continues to move forward with its ballistic missile program ... working on new, longer range developmental ballistic missiles...." In response to a question, Studeman said "we are detecting little signs that the North Koreans would much rather move up the path toward normalization than confrontation," although he added that "they are prepared for the confrontation, and they have put a lot of energy into expanding their military capability." Clapper said that in DIA's view, North Korea remains one of the top security concerns for the United States, along with political-military developments in Russia and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Addressing the crisis in Russia's breakaway Chechnya republic, Clapper predicted that it was "just a question of time" before the Chechen capital of Grozny fell to the "sheer weight of force and the amount of fire power that the Russians are going to bring to bear...." But he added that guerrilla forces would retreat to the mountains, leaving "the Russians ... in for a long seige." Calling the crisis "a tragedy and a debacle" that threatens Russia's progress toward democracy and a market economy, ranking minority member Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) asked if the deterioration in its conventional capability might move the Russian military toward increased reliance on nuclear weapons. "Psychologically it will," Clapper said. "I think it will place greater emphasis on the Russian military's clinging to their nuclear forces even more so as a psychological evidence of their continued claim to major power status as their conventional forces have obviously declined." Studeman noted that the demise of the Soviet Union "and the lack of adequate controls of nuclear materials in that region" raises the danger that hostile states could "short-circuit" the development cycle for nuclear weapons. He also expressed concern about advanced conventional weapons that can be used to deliver weapons of mass destruction "and which are available in unprecedented quantities on the world market." 1Approximately two dozen countries have ongoing programs to develop or acquire weapons of mass destruction," Clapper noted. "While it is possible to slow the proliferation of these weapons, a country that is intent on gaining such a capability will eventually do so." Considering the number of countries and groups that have the potential to acquire this capability, he said the likelihood of using a nuclear weapon -- "letting the genie out of the bottle -- could happen within 10 years." Clapper stressed that U.S. security interests lie in recognizing that the United States is part of a world where "flash-point warfare ... could ignite virtually anywhere and with little notice." While the intelligence agencies are cutting personnel and budgets, in keeping with the Clinton administration's move to reduce the size of government, Clapper said, "it is incumbent on all of us ... to make every reasonable attempt to minimize the risk inherent in still deeper cuts." The two intelligence directors spoke in an open hearing, which was followed by a session closed to the public. NNNN .