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CIA chief: No indication of imminent nuclear war with N. Korea

WASHINGTON -- US intelligence does not indicate an imminent nuclear war with North Korea, the chief of the Central Intelligence Agency said Sunday, after a week of bellicose rhetoric between the two sides.

In an interview on "Fox News Sunday," CIA Director Mike Pompeo said he would not be surprised if North Korea carried out another missile test to advance its missile and nuclear programs.

But he rejected talk of the US being on the "cusp of nuclear war."

"I've seen no intelligence to indicate we're in that place today," Pompeo said.

North Korea, according to the director, has been moving at an "ever alarming rate" to develop nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles.

"Each time they test another missile, or if they should conduct a nuclear weapons test, they develop expertise. They expand the envelope," he said.

US President Donald Trump has made clear how the US will respond to North Korea's provocations, and hopefully, the regime will understand, Pompeo added.

Trump warned last week that North Korea would be met with "fire and fury" if it continued to threaten his country. In response, North Korea announced a detailed plan to fire ballistic missiles towards Guam, a US territory in the Pacific.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo. (AP-Yonhap)
CIA Director Mike Pompeo. (AP-Yonhap)

"This administration has made our policy very clear. We've engaged the world to support that policy," Pompeo said, adding there will no longer be "strategic patience," the policy of former President Barack Obama, which centered on waiting for Pyongyang to return to denuclearization talks while increasing sanctions and pressure on the regime.

Pompeo described the North's leader, Kim Jong-un, as "rational."

"He responds to adverse circumstances," he said.

In a separate interview on ABC News, Trump's national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, struck a similar tone.

He said he doesn't think the US is closer to war than a week ago, but closer to war than a decade ago.

"Our response is we are prepared militarily to deal with this if necessary. But we're taking all possible actions short of military action to resolve this very grave threat to the United States and the world," the lieutenant general said, citing diplomatic efforts, increased sanctions and increased pressure.

He played down the gravity of Trump's tweet Friday that the US military is "locked and loaded" to respond to North Korea's threats.

"The United States military is always locked and loaded," he said. "But the purpose of capable, ready forces is to preserve peace and prevent war. And George Washington said it. The most effective way of preserving peace is to be prepared for war."

On whether North Korea's threats alone could provoke a military response, he responded:

"Well, it depends on the nature of the threat, right? And so this is why what Kim Jong-un is doing is very, very dangerous." (Yonhap)