Washington ranks Pyongyang as distant threat

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Washington ranks Pyongyang as distant threat

Cyberwarfare is the most serious threat facing the United States, according to more than 300 people surveyed for the Defense News Leadership Poll, while the threat from North Korea ranked sixth among all possible concerns.

The poll, the results of which were released Sunday, was conducted from Nov. 14 to Nov. 28 and surveyed 345 U.S. national security defense leaders, who answered a range of questions in regard to defense issues and security threats.

Just 0.7 percent of the 293 people who responded to the question believed North Korea was the most dangerous threat to U.S. security. A little less than half of those surveyed, 45.1 percent, said the greatest threat to the United States was cyberwarfare, followed by terrorism at 26.3 percent. China came in third, with 14.3 percent.

Despite political party affiliation, cyberwarfare was considered the most dangerous across the board. Responses afterward varied depending on party affiliation. All those who considered North Korea a threat were self-identified Democrats.

Climate change (7.9 percent) and the threat from Iran (5.8 percent) were also considered bigger threats than the situation in North Korea.

Among 291 respondents, 23 percent said the regime is weaker than it was five years ago, while only 14.1 percent said it had become stronger. The remaining 62.9 percent said the regime remained the same. The poll, however, was conducted before the Dec. 12 execution of Jang Song-thaek, the second-most powerful man in the regime and the uncle and mentor of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Still, for many U.S. respondents, North Korea was considered less of a threat than China or Iran. When asked more detailed questions about regional threats, 54 percent selected Iran from the Middle East, and 47.6 percent chose China from within Asia, as the most pressing. North Korea followed China as a threat in Asia with 28.8 percent.

But although North Korea is considered a threat on the continent, it would not be affordable for the Obama administration to rebalance its military assets to Asia, 62 percent of respondents said, taking into consideration budget constraints and ongoing turmoil in the Middle East.

The poll appears to accurately reflect Washington’s current stance on affairs in North Korea. So far this year it has remained firm in its calls for the denuclearization of Pyongyang despite the reclusive state’s cycle of repeated threats and conciliatory moves.

BY PARK SEUNG-HEE, KIM HEE-JIN [heejin@joongang.co.kr]
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