US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Mike Pompeo has warned that North Korea is moving “ever closer” to putting Americans at risk and is only “a handful of months” way from being able to launch a nuclear attack on the United States.
“North Korea is ever closer to being able to hold America at risk,” the CIA chief said at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative-leaning think tank in Washington, on Tuesday.
Pompeo said he had earlier expressed alarm about Pyongyang being “a handful of months” away from the ability to endanger the US with a nuclear attack.
“I said the same thing several months before that,” he said, adding that “I want everybody 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.”
The CIA director also said he believed North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was intent on developing a reliable arsenal of nuclear weapons to threaten America and that the measure was not just “a showpiece.”
“Kim Jong-un will not rest with a single successful test,” Pompeo said in his speech at the American Enterprise Institute. “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.”
Kim seeks “the capacity to deliver from multiple firings of these missiles simultaneously,” he noted. “Our mission is to make the day that he can do that as far off as possible.”
The CIA chief said the aim of North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missiles program was more than just deterrence against Washington and that Pyongyang would use nuclear weapons for the ultimate goal of reunifying the Korean Peninsula under Kim’s control.
Pompeo also accused the previous US administration of not concentrating sufficient resources on Pyongyang and its nuclear weapons program.
Last week, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson threatened North Korea with a military response unless it abandoned its nuclear weapons program.
North Korea has been under a raft of harsh UN sanctions since 2006 over its nuclear tests as well as multiple rocket and missile launches. Pyongyang has firmly defended its military program as a deterrent against the hostile policies of the US and its regional allies, including South Korea and Japan.
On November 29, North Korea said it had successfully tested a new missile that put the US mainland within range of its nuclear weapons. It also declared itself a “nuclear state.”
The North Korean leader also used his televised New Year’s Day speech to warn Washington that the entire United States was within range of Pyongyan’s nuclear weapons and a nuclear button was always on his desk.