U.S. Spy Chief Nominee Clapper Sees Danger Ahead From N. Korea

The U.S. may be entering “a dangerous new period” with North Korea marked by military provocations designed to advance the Stalinist state’s political goals, President Barack Obama’s nominee for intelligence chief said.

That threat is the “most important lesson” for the U.S. intelligence community to take from North Korea’s sinking of a South Korean warship, James Clapper told the Senate Intelligence Committee in written testimony for his confirmation hearing yesterday. A retired Air Force lieutenant general, Clapper has held the Pentagon’s top intelligence job since 2007.

“We may be entering a dangerous new period when North Korea will once again attempt to advance its internal and external political goals through direct attacks on our allies in the Republic of Korea,” said Clapper, who was head of intelligence for U.S. Forces Korea and the Pacific Command in the mid-1980s.

The March sinking of the Cheonan, which the U.S. and South Korea have blamed on a North Korean torpedo, also highlights a “renewed realization that North Korea’s military forces still pose a threat that cannot be taken lightly,” Clapper told the committee in an 89-page set of answers to policy questions.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates visits the armed border dividing North and South Korea today in a show of U.S. unity with its ally after the sinking.

The tour of the so-called Demilitarized Zone is part of commemorations of the 60th anniversary of the Korean War. The visit coincides with the arrival of the 97,000-ton aircraft carrier USS George Washington at the southeastern port of Busan before U.S.-South Korea military exercises that have raised tensions with China.

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