Photo: Rex Stucky

North Korea poses the “most serious” security threat facing the U.S. and its allies, Ambassador Joseph DeTrani, president of the Daniel Morgan Graduate School of National Security, told a packed audience at an April 21 meeting of the NPC’s American Legion Post 20.

DeTrani, a former president of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance and high-ranking CIA official, gave a sweeping tour of security challenges facing the nation.

He noted that Kim Jong-un was ill-prepared to succeed his father as “supreme leader” of 25 million North Koreans in 2011. DeTrani, who held ambassadorial rank for the U.S. at the Six-Party Talks to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, said there has been “no meaningful engagement” with North Korea since 2008, when regime negotiators “literally walked away from the table.”

Vigorous U.S.-sponsored sanctions against North Korea have been deemed necessary by the international community in spite of their humanitarian costs because of flagrant violations of UN resolutions by the regime, according to the ambassador. He said the U.S. and its Asian allies have the military and intelligence capacity to thwart a North Korean missile attack.

DeTrani, who held numerous directorships at the CIA during his career, ranked cyber attacks against critical infrastructure, including power, avionics, water systems and financial institutions, as the top terrorist threat the U.S. faces, in part because it is often difficult to nail down the perpetrators. He said close cooperation between security agencies and the private sector is needed to block cyber crime.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and China’s leadership are using nationalize to bolster their appeal, a tactic that requires U.S. resolve and leadership to counter.

“If you put down a red line and it is crossed, there have got to be consequences,” DeTrani said. He noted that Russia’s actions in the Crimea and sabre rattling elsewhere has ended moves to soften the NATO Alliance, and that Russia under Putin presents “one of the most difficult issues for this and future Presidents.”

DeTrani, who spent years in China and is fluent in Mandarin, said he is optimistic about U.S.-China relations in dealing with issues such as North Korea and nuclear proliferation in spite of China’s aggressive territorial claims in the China Sea.

The Daniel Morgan Graduate School of National Security, led by DeTrani, is a recently established graduate school for students specializing in national security issues. His talk before Post 20 was open to all NPC members and guests.

As part of the Post 20 meeting, former NPC President and past Post Commander John Cosgrove received a certificate signed by Dale Barnett, National Commander of the 2.2 million-member organization, commemorating Cosgrove’s 50-year membership in the Legion.

NPC President Tom Burr also received a certificate of appreciation for his support of Post 20, one of the Legion’s oldest.

The Post was founded at the urging of Brig. Gen. John Pershing, leader of the American Expeditionary Force in World War I and a member of the NPC.