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CIA Director: U.S. Ability to Block Shipments Into North Korea is Inadequate

Fundamental risk of N. Korea developing missile, nuclear capabilities is proliferation

Director of the CIA Mike Pompeo
Director of the CIA Mike Pompeo / Getty Images
• January 23, 2018 2:25 pm

The CIA believes its capacity to block international shipments into North Korea is inadequate amid U.S. efforts to choke off revenue to Pyongyang's military programs, the agency's director Mike Pompeo said Tuesday.

"We're not quite where we need to be," Pompeo said at an event hosted by the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.

"Our mission is not complete, but we have officers all around the world working diligently to make sure that we do everything we can to support the U.S. pressure campaign and to tighten sanctions in such a way that we have the opportunity to prevail and to achieve the president's mission, which is denuclearization of the peninsula."

Pompeo's remarks came four days after the Wall Street Journal revealed that U.S. intelligence officials had gathered evidence of at least six Chinese ships entering ports in North Korea and transporting illicit cargo to Russia and Vietnam in violation of United Nations sanctions against Pyongyang.

The Trump administration in September submitted a proposal to the United Nations Security Council requesting authorization for the U.S. Navy and Air Force to interdict and inspect North Korean ships in international waters. The resolution was rejected, but the UN in December imposed sanctions on North Korea aimed at cutting off fuel and oil supplies, which served as a key source of revenue for Kim Jong Un's nuclear and missile defense programs.

Pompeo said a fundamental risk of North Korea developing its missile and nuclear capabilities is proliferation to rogue states such as Iran.

He judged that North Korea's weapons programs will be used for coercion purposes in addition to self-defense and said Kim's next "logical step" would be the development of an arsenal of weapons with the capacity to fire multiple missiles simultaneously.

"We do believe that Kim Jong Un, given these toolsets, would use them for things beyond regime protection and that is to put pressure on what is his ultimate goal, which is reunification of the peninsula under his authority," Pompeo said. "We don't think it's the case that he's simply going to use this tool set for self-preservation."