- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 23, 2018

CIA Director Mike Pompeo says U.S. spies are wary that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may not be receiving truthful briefings from the circle of regime officials surrounding the dictator on how serious the Trump administration is about neutralizing Pyongyang’s nuclear threat by any means necessary.

“We’re concerned that he may not be getting really good accurate information,” Mr. Pompeo told an audience in Washington on Tuesday, the one-year anniversary of his assuming control of the agency.

“It is not a healthy thing to be a senior [North Korean] leader and bring bad news to Kim Jong-un,” said Mr. Pompeo, who then drew loud laughter from an invite-only crowd at the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute by adding, “tell someone you’re going to do that and then try to get a life insurance policy.”

When the laughter passed, the CIA director said the Trump administration and the U.S. intelligence community are “taking the real world actions that we think will make it unmistakable to Kim Jong-un that we are intent on denuclearization.”

Mr. Pompeo said that when he arrived at the CIA a year ago, the agency was not devoting sufficient attention to the North Korea threat. He said his move in May to establish a “Korea Mission Center” has helped remedy the situation, and that a period of “remarkable CIA creativity” during the months since has paid off.

The U.S. government now has intelligence significantly bolstering its capability to “interdict shipments into North Korea,” Mr. Pompeo said.

“We’re not quite where we need to be, our mission is not complete,” he said. “But we have officers all around the world working diligently to make sure we do everything we can to support the U.S. pressure campaign and to tighten the sanctions in such a way that we have an opportunity to prevail and achieve the American president’s mission, which is the denuclearization of the [Korean] peninsula.”

The CIA directors comments come about a week after Mr. Trump made international headlines by asserting that Russia has been undermining U.S. attempts to economically isolate North Korea, suggesting that Moscow is giving Pyongyang vital access to oil and coal supplies in violation of international sanctions.

During an exclusive interview with Reuters, Mr. Trump praised China for taking recent steps to restrict the flow of oil and coal to North Korea, but also said that Beijing could be doing more and that what the Chinese are doing is being undercut by Moscow.

“What China is helping us with, Russia is denting,” the president said. “In other words, Russia is making up for some of what China is doing.”

Reuters maintained that it had been told by Western European security sources in late December that Russian tankers had supplied fuel to North Korea on at least three occasions in recent months by transferring cargoes at sea in violation of international sanctions. Russia has denied breaching North Korea sanctions.

Mr. Pompeo, meanwhile, said Tuesday the CIA’s current assessment is that, despite being within “several months” of having the capacity to directly threaten the U.S. homeland with nuclear-topped intercontinental ballistic missiles, Pyongyang, at the current moment, still does not have that capacity.

“I want everyone to understand that we are working diligently to make sure that a year from now I can still tell you they are several months away from having that capacity,” Mr. Pompeo said.

The CIA director said that he believes North Korea is bent on developing a vast “arsenal” of nuclear weapons capable of threatening the United States and the goal of the Kim Jong-un regime in Pyongyang is to absorb South Korea into North Korea on its own terms.

He said North Korea has “nearly a million” citizens participating in its military and that Mr. Kim’s goal is “more than just regime preservation.”

While he declined to comment on how seriously the Trump administration may be considering some kind of pre-emptive military strike against North Korea, Mr. Pompeo stressed that President Trump is intent on delivering a solution to the North Korean crisis through “diplomatic means.”

Mr. Trump has been carefully aloof on the issue. During his interview with Reuters last week, the president declined to comment on whether he has engaged in any private communications with Mr. Kim, but also cast doubt on whether talks would be useful.

“I’d sit down, but I’m not sure that sitting down will solve the problem,” Mr. Trump said, noting that past negotiations with the North Koreans by his predecessors had failed to rein in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

“I’m not sure that talks will lead to anything meaningful,” he said. “They’ve talked for 25 years and they’ve taken advantage of our presidents, of our previous presidents.”

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