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US spy chief highlights nuclear North Korea, radicalized Americans as major security threats

The Director of US National Intelligence has issued his annual report on the major threats facing Washington. Besides "IS" and North Korea, the US should watch out for Russian and Chinese cyber attacks, he said.

The head of US intelligence said on Tuesday that North Korea has restarted a plutonium reactor and begun expanding a uranium enrichment plant that could very soon provide fuel for an atomic bomb. James Clapper highlighted the threat from Pyongyang while delivering an annual report on the top dangers confronting the nation.

"We… assess that North Korea has been operating the reactor long enough so that it could begin to recover plutonium from the reactor's spent fuel within a matter of weeks to months," said Clapper.

Watch video 02:20

North Korea launches long-range rocket

US-based experts had found that North Korea is not only making technical advances in light of recent underground test detonations and

a rocket launch

, but that Pyongyang may already have a small nuclear arsenal of about 10 short-range weapons. That could expand to between 20 and 100 by 2020.

They are determined to create long-range missiles, Clapper said.

Homegrown terrorism a rising threat

The Director of National Intelligence also highlighted the continued threat of Islamist extremism abroad, as well as the possibility of cyber attacks from China and Russia. Interestingly, however, he said homegrown terrorism could be more of a concern as it more easily inspires copycat attacks.

"The perceived success of attacks by homegrown violent extremists in Europe and North America, such as those in Chattanooga and San Bernardino, might motivate others to replicate opportunistic attacks with little or no warning, diminishing our ability to detect terrorist operational planning and readiness," he said.

"ISIL involvement in homeland attack activity will probably continue to involve those who draw inspiration from the group's highly sophisticated media without direct guidance from ISIL leadership," Clapper continued, using an alternative acronym for the "Islamic State" (IS) jihadist group.

His speech culminated in suggestions that Moscow was likely to target US interests with cyber attacks in order to promote its agendas in Ukraine and Syria. China, on the other hand, would probably focus on selective targets Beijing sees as dangerous to regime control or domestic stability.

es/jil (AFP, AP)

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