CIA Chief Says North Korea Seeks Arsenal for `Coercive' Aims

(Bloomberg) -- CIA Director Mike Pompeo said Kim Jong Un’s regime wants to use its budding arsenal for “coercive” purposes, dismissing North Korea’s contention that it needs a nuclear missile program to enhance its defense against a possible U.S. attack.

Pompeo also said that despite Pyongyang’s rapidly improving missile and nuclear programs over the past year, Kim “will not rest with a single successful test.”

“The logical next step is to develop an arsenal” of missiles capable of striking the U.S., Pompeo said in a rare public appearance Tuesday at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. “They have moved at a very rapid clip.”

The Central Intelligence Agency director’s comments come amid gestures of reconciliation between North Korea and South Korea -- which remain technically at war -- as well as renewed U.S. efforts to get other nations to cut diplomatic and economic ties with Pyongyang. Next month, the two Koreas will march jointly under a unified flag at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics -- the first time they will step out together at the launch of an international sporting event since 2007.

The U.S. has expressed skepticism about North Korea’s motives in reaching out to Seoul, while Kim’s regime insists the U.S. military presence in the region presents a direct threat to its existence. The risk of heightened tensions between Washington and Pyongyang was highlighted earlier this month when officials in Hawaii erroneously sent out a warning that a ballistic missile was heading toward the island chain.

Intelligence officers are monitoring whether sanctions against North Korea are having a “sufficient effect” inside the country and what could be preventing them from being effective, according to Pompeo, who said there’s “enormous pressure” on him to close intelligence gaps on North Korea.

Asked to describe his almost-daily intelligence briefings for President Trump at the White House, Pompeo said Trump takes a keen interest in issues from Venezuela’s debt crisis to the humanitarian situation in Yemen. He described the president as being as keen a consumer of intelligence issues as 25-year professionals in the field.

“He kept pushing us on what was really taking place, what was possible given the configuration of forces on the ground,” Pompeo said in reference to Yemen. “He pushed a couple, three days” on that issue, Pompeo added.

As recently as Tuesday morning, the president’s daily briefing included a discussion of the situation in northern Syria, where Turkish forces have attacked U.S.-allied Kurdish militias, Pompeo said.

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