WMD PROLIFERATION

G l o b a l   T h r e a t s

NORTH KOREA

Kim Jong Un remains strongly committed to expanding the country’s nuclear weapons arsenal and continuing ballistic missile research and development. North Korea’s continued development of ICBMs, IRBMs, and SLBMs demonstrates its intention to bolster its nuclear delivery capability. Fissile material production continues in North Korea, which maintains its plutonium program and probably is expanding it uranium enrichment program.

In January, North Korea began laying the groundwork for an increase in tensions that could include ICBM or possibly a nuclear test this year — actions that Pyongyang has not taken since 2017. Flight tests are part of North Korea’s effort to expand the number and type of missile systems capable of delivering nuclear warheads to the entire United States. North Korea continues to seek a sea-based nuclear-strike capability. In October 2021, North Korea flight tested a new SLBM.

North Korea’s chemical and biological weapons (CBW) capabilities remain a threat, and the IC is concerned that Pyongyang may use such weapons during a conflict or in an unconventional or clandestine attack.

RUSSIA

We assess that Russia will remain the largest and most capable WMD rival to the United States for the foreseeable future as it expands and modernizes its nuclear weapons capabilities and increases the capabilities of its strategic and nonstrategic weapons. Russia also remains a nuclear-material security concern, despite improvements to material protection, control, and accounting at Russia’s nuclear sites since the 1990s.

Moscow views its nuclear capabilities as necessary for maintaining deterrence and achieving its goals in a potential conflict against the United States and NATO, and it sees a credible nuclear weapons deterrent as the ultimate guarantor of the Russian Federation.

Moscow continues to develop long-range nuclear-capable missile and underwater delivery systems meant to penetrate or bypass U.S. missile defenses.

Russia is expanding and modernizing its large, diverse, and modern set of nonstrategic systems, which are capable of delivering nuclear or conventional warheads, because Moscow believes such systems offer options to deter adversaries, control the escalation of potential hostilities, and counter U.S. and allied troops near its border.

CHINA

Beijing will continue the largest ever nuclear force expansion and arsenal diversification in its history. Beijing is not interested in agreements that restrict its plans and will not agree to negotiations that lock in U.S. or Russian advantages. China is building a larger and increasingly capable nuclear missile and bomber force that is more survivable, more diverse, and on higher alert than in the past, including nuclear missile systems designed to manage regional escalation and ensure an intercontinental strike capability in any scenario.

China is building hundreds of new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) silos

As of 2020, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) had operationally fielded the nuclearcapable H-6N bomber, providing a platform for the air component of the PRC’s nascent nuclear triad.

China conducted a hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) flight test that flew completely around the world and impacted inside China.

IRAN

We continue to assess that Iran is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activities that we judge would be necessary to produce a nuclear device. In July 2019, following the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA in May 2018, Iran began resuming some activities that exceed JCPOA limits. If Tehran does not receive sanctions relief, Iranian officials probably will consider further enriching uranium up to 90 percent.

Iran has consistently cast its resumption of nuclear activities as a reversible response to the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA and messaged that it would return to full compliance if the United States lifted sanctions and also fulfilled its JCPOA commitments.

Iran continues to increase the size and enrichment level of its uranium stockpile beyond JCPOA limits. Iran continues to ignore restrictions on advanced centrifuge research and development and continues uranium enrichment operations at the deeply buried Fordow facility. Iran has been enriching uranium hexafluoride (UF6) up to 60 percent U-235 since April 2021, and continues to accumulate UF6 enriched up to 20 percent. The IAEA has verified that Iran is conducting uranium metal research and development, including producing laboratory-scale quantities of uranium metal enriched up to 20 percent U-235.

INDIA & PAKISTAN

Crises between India and Pakistan are of particular concern because of the risk—however low—of an escalatory cycle between two nuclear-armed states. Pakistan has a long history of supporting anti-India militant groups; under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India is more likely than in the past to respond with military force to perceived or real Pakistani provocations, and each side’s perception of heightened tensions raises the risk of conflict, with violent unrest in Kashmir or a militant attack in India being potential flashpoints.

Source:   2022 Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community