Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats warned the rogue regime is expected to expand its biological weapons arsenal to increase the number of possible weapons to attack the US with.
He said: “North Korea will be the most volatile and confrontational weapon of mass destruction threat in the coming year.
“In addition to its ballistic missile tests and growing number of nuclear warheads for these missiles, North Korea will continue its long-standing chemical and biological warfare programmes also.”
The study warned North Korea would not respect international safety standards or rules of war – a threat which has set alarm bells ringing in Seoul, Tokyo, Washington and London.
The top-ranking intelligence official testified with CIA director Mike Pompeo and the heads of the FBI and National Security Agency in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee to discuss the threat to US security posed by North Korea.
Mr Coats said: “State efforts to modernise, develop or acquire WMDs and delivery systems or the underlying technologies constitute a major threat to the United States and to our allies.
“Our goal is a peaceful settlement. We are using maximum pressure on North Korea in various ways. Decision time is becoming ever closer in terms of how we respond to this.”
The warning comes after Vice President Mike Pence said the US and South Korea have agreed on terms for further diplomatic engagement with North Korea in an attempt to ease tensions with the rogue state.
The prospect of talks comes after months of tension between Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes with US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un trading colourful insults and threats of destruction amid tightening UN sanctions.
Speaking aboard Air Force Two on his way home from the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in South Korea, Mr Pence said Washington would keep up its “maximum pressure campaign” against Pyongyang but would be open to possible talks at the same time.
He said: “The point is, no pressure comes off until they are actually doing something that the alliance believes represents a meaningful step toward denuclearisation.
“So the maximum pressure campaign is going to continue and intensify. But if you want to talk, we’ll talk.”