North Korea

If Kim Jong-un suddenly dies, don’t ask me about it, says CIA chief

Director Mike Pompeo plays down idea there’s a plot to assassinate North Korean leader, but admits wanting to create ‘a much more vicious agency’

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 October, 2017, 10:36am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 October, 2017, 8:21pm

The US Central Intelligence Agency thinks that North Korea’s Kim Jong-un is a rational actor who is focused on staying in power and “waking up in his own bed” each day.

But if Kim should suddenly not show up for work, there is no point asking US spy chief Mike Pompeo about it.

“With respect to … if Kim Jong-un should vanish, given the history of the CIA, I’m just not going to talk about it,” the CIA director said on Thursday, when asked what would happen if Kim suddenly died.

We are going to become a much more vicious agency
Mike Pompeo, CIA Director

“Someone might think there was a coincidence. ‘You know, there was an accident.’ It’s just not fruitful,” he said to laughs from national security officials at a forum held by the Foundation for Defence of Democracies.

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The US agency has a dark history of involvement in plots to overthrow or eliminate leaders in countries like Iran, Cuba, Congo, Vietnam and Chile.

North Korea claimed earlier this year that the CIA working with South Korean intelligence had tried to kill Kim, 33, without providing any proof.

“Kim Jong-un’s mission is just to stay in power,” he said.

At the same Pompeo, who became director of the CIA in January, said he was revitalising the agency’s field missions.

“We are going to become a much more vicious agency,” he said.

Pompeo said the US should assume Kim’s government is “on the cusp” of getting a nuclear missile capable of striking US targets and work to prevent it.

He said President Donald Trump is determined to prevent North Korea from making the breakthrough “whether it happens on Tuesday or a month from Tuesday”.

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Speaking at the forum, both Pompeo and US national security adviser HR McMaster said Trump would still prefer to use sanctions and diplomacy to force Kim to come to the table to discuss disarmament. But, they said, US military force remains an option.

“They are close enough now in their capabilities that from a US policy perspective we ought to behave as if we are on the cusp of them achieving that objective,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo said US intelligence had kept close tabs on the North Korean programme in the past, but that its missile expertise is now growing too quickly to be sure when it will succeed.

“But when you’re now talking about months our capacity to understand that at a detailed level is in some sense irrelevant,” he said. “The president’s made it very clear. He’s prepared to ensure that Kim Jong-un doesn’t have the capacity to hold America at risk. By military force if necessary.”

This week, North Korea’s deputy UN ambassador declared that Pyongyang would not put its nuclear arsenal nor ballistic missile programme on the table unless Washington drops its “hostile” stance.

Kim’s government has made no secret of its efforts to develop a missile capable of hitting US mainland cities or bases in the Pacific and has conducted several tests.

McMaster told the conference that the government would not be allowed to develop arms that would threaten the US.

“We are not out of time but we are running out of time,” Trump’s top security adviser said.

“The president has been very clear. He’s not going to accept this government threatening the United States with nuclear weapons,” he warned. “There are those that say, ‘accept and deter’. Well, ‘accept and deter’ is unacceptable.”