North Korea nuclear crisis

Kim Jong-un, lacking good information, moves ‘ever closer’ to putting US at risk of nuclear attack: CIA director

‘It is not a healthy thing to be a senior leader and bring bad news to Kim Jong-un’

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 January, 2018, 5:05am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 January, 2018, 11:10pm

The US believes North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is not getting good information to handle the crisis over Pyongyang’s nuclear missile programme and the country is moving “ever closer” to putting Americans at risk of attack, according to CIA director Mike Pompeo.

Pompeo said on Tuesday that he believes Kim will not rest until he is able to threaten multiple nuclear attacks against the US at the same time.

He cast doubt on whether Kim is well-briefed enough on developments to make wise decisions.

“We are concerned that he may not be getting really good, accurate information,” Pompeo said in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute.

“It is not a healthy thing to be a senior leader and bring bad news to Kim Jong-un,” he added, joking that such a person should buy life insurance first.

However, putting levity aside, Pompeo said the CIA believes North Korea is focused on going beyond just being a theoretical threat – as it is now – to one with the actual capability to strike America.

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“Kim Jong-un will not rest with a single successful test,” Pompeo said. “The logical next step would be to develop an arsenal of weapons that is not one, not a showpiece, not something to drive on a parade route.”

North Korea is ever closer to being able to hold America at risk
CIA director Mike Pompeo

Speaking after one year on the job, Pompeo also said the CIA believes Kim would not only use nuclear weapons to stay in power, but to threaten to reunify the divided Korean Peninsula under his totalitarian regime.

The quest for reunification is disputed by some North Korean experts who see Kim’s nuclear programme as primarily a means of retaining power and do not think he would threaten or forcibly try to take over South Korea.

“North Korea is ever closer to being able to hold America at risk,” Pompeo told the conservative-leaning think tank in Washington. “I want everyone to understand that we are working diligently to make sure that a year from now I can still tell you that they are several months away from having that capacity.”

“He is trying to put in our mind the reality that he can deliver that pain to the USA. And our mission is to make the day that he can do that as far off as possible.”

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It is unclear how well the United States could defend against multiple missiles fired from North Korea at the same time.

Despite his warning, Pompeo does not think a North Korean attack on the United States is imminent. He said the Trump administration is “laser-focused” on achieving a diplomatic solution to the nuclear stand-off.

Americans should know that it is working to prepare a series of options so the president has the “full range of possibilities” to address the threat.

US policy towards the North has included tougher sanctions and stepped-up efforts to halt the country’s seaborne trade with ship interdictions.

“We are taking the real-world actions that we think will make unmistakable to Kim Jong-un that we are intent on denuclearisation. We are counting on the fact that he’ll see it. We are confident he will.”

Pompeo would not address the question of whether there are military options available to the US that do not risk an escalation into nuclear war with North Korea.

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“There is much effort all across the US government to ensure that Americans don’t have to feel at risk,” Pompeo said.

“We saw what happened in Hawaii. It is an imperative – an American, national imperative – that we as an intelligence agency deliver the information to our senior leaders such that they can resolve this issue in a way that works for the American people.”

Earlier this month, a false alarm that a ballistic missile was headed for Hawaii sent the islands into a panic, with people abandoning cars and preparing to flee their homes until officials said the cellphone alert was a mistake.