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    Representative Mike Pompeo pauses as he testifies before a Senate Intelligence hearing on his nomination to head the CIA on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 12, 2017

    CIA Director Claims North Korea Months Away from Being Able to Strike US

    © REUTERS / Carlos Barria
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    In an interview with the BBC on Monday, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said that his agency was concerned that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may be mere months away from having full nuclear capabilities, able to launch a missile at any target in the US in the very near future.

    "We are mindful that Kim Jong-un continues to present a risk not only to the United States but to the world," said Pompeo. "Collectively, the United States and our intelligence partners around the world have developed a pretty clear understanding of Kim Jong-un's capability. We talk about him having the ability to deliver a nuclear weapon to the United States in a matter of a handful of months."

    During an interview with CBS earlier in January, Pompeo made a similar claim: that North Korea was just a "handful of months" away from being able to "deliver a nuclear attack to the territorial United States."

    Interviewer Norah O'Donnell replied that Pompeo had used that same phrase — a "handful of months" — six months prior to make the same claim. The director replied that Washington had found ways to impede North Korean progress.

    "I hope to be able to say it a year from now as well," he said. "The United States government is working diligently to extend that timeline."

    North Korea gaining strike capabilities is unacceptable to the US. Pompeo added that the CIA was abundantly aware of the dangers that armed conflict with North Korea poses to surrounding countries — but if Washington thought it necessary, they wouldn't hesitate to use military force.

    Therefore, Pompeo said, the CIA's "task is to have provided the intelligence to the president of the United States that will deliver to him a set of options that continue to take down that risk by non-diplomatic means."

    The BBC asked Pompeo about the fiery and belittling rhetoric Trump used when discussing Kim. In recent months, Trump claimed that "military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded" and referred to Kim as a "a madman who doesn't mind starving or killing his people."

    Trump also wasn't above petty insults, calling Kim "short and fat" in an infamous November tweet. But Pompeo defended Trump, saying that more thought went into the comments than may have been immediately apparent.

    "When you see this language that the president chooses to use, there are many audiences for it," he said. "And I assure you Kim Jong-un understands the message that America is serious."

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    Tags:
    Kim Jong-un, nuclear strike, intercontinental ballistic missile, North Korea's nuclear program, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Donald Trump, Mike Pompeo, Democratic Republic of North Korea (DPRK)
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