In the past week, CIA Director Mike Pompeo has spoken to a number of news outlets, claiming that North Korea will have a nuclear warhead capable of striking the US within a few months. Pyongyang has been claiming for months, that they have a ICBM capable of reaching the entire mainland United States, but aeronautics experts were skeptical, questioning whether the North Korean missiles would be able to survive reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere. After launching the Hwasong-15 missile in November, North Korea told the world they could now nuke the US, but military intelligence doubted their claims.
Now, with the Director of the CIA claiming North Korea will actually be able to reach the US in a few months, new fears are surfacing, especially after the false alarm in Hawaii earlier this month made the situation all too real for many Americans. The idea of a hostile nation being able to nuke the US hasn’t been a serious concern for most Americans since the Cold War.
President Trump has constantly come under fire for the language he uses when discussing North Korea. Critics of the President point to his tweets and use of the nickname “rocket man” for Kim Jong-un as being diplomatically reckless. Critics have been eager to pin the threat of North Korea being able to nuke the US on the President’s language.
Mike Pompeo, disagrees, telling the BBC, that North Korea and US allies, “understand the message” thanks to Donald Trump:
It is also our judgment that our partners who are also at risk from North Korea have now come to understand that it is Kim Jong Un that is presenting this risk. I think that America has done an excellent job — all of our senior leaders — of communicating to the world the seriousness with which this threat needs to be undertaken.
Pompeo went on to further applaud his boss’ work, asserting that the Trump administration has led progress in dealing with the oppressive communist regime “that has never been achieved before.” President Trump’s approach differs from the “strategic patience” of previous administrations.
Although Pompeo believes North Korea will be able to nuke the US in the next few months, the CIA Director told CBS News last week, “The United States government is working diligently to extend that timeline.”
The Missile Tests
Aeronautics experts have said that North Korea will need a few more missile launches before they, or anyone else, can be sure that their missiles can reach the US with a miniaturized nuclear warhead intact. Pompeo did not say whether the US expects another nuclear launch from the communist dictator.
Pyongyang has not launched a missile test since November. After each test, the UN hands down stricter and stricter sanctions against the regime. North Korea’s nuclear program is believed to be literally starving their people, including the infamous million man army. Defectors report that the rations that 70% of the population relies on have been cut down even more, while starving soldiers have rushed across the DMZ. As the communist government becomes more obsessed with being able to nuke the US, “for defense,” the North Korean people suffer more from radiation poisoning, hunger, and poverty.
Earlier this month, January 9th, North Korea and South Korea met for their first diplomatic talks in years. The talks came as South Korea is preparing for the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang this February. Although North Korea recently canceled a planned joint cultural performance at the Olympics, South Korea remains hopeful that the Olympics may see some diplomatic strides between the two halves of the Korean peninsula. South Korea also hopes the North will not provoke the US & UN by launching another test before the games.
Pompeo also turned his attention to allegations of Russia meddling in US elections. According to the CIA Director, he expects Russia to attempt to interfere in the 2018 midterm elections:
Of course. I have every expectation that they will continue to try and do that. But I am confident that America will be able to have a free and fair election. That we’ll push back in a way that is sufficiently robust that the impact they have on our election won’t be great.
While the US increased sanctions on businesses, ships, and individuals connected to North Korea last week, Pompeo speaks as the US State Department announced this week that there will be no new sanctions against Russia specifically. Many were expecting the State Department to lay out new sanctions against Russia in response to allegations of Kremlin-backed interference in the 2016 election, as well as Russia’s aggressive involvement in Ukraine and Syria.
Many were outraged at the decision not to impose further sanctions on Putin’s Russia. The senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel (NY), claims the Trump administration has “let Russia off the hook yet again.”
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, claims that there is no need for new sanctions following the sanctions signed into law by the President in August, “Sanctions on specific entities or individuals will not need to be imposed because the legislation is, in fact, serving as a deterrent.” The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), received bipartisan support in both houses of Congress and is seen as retribution for Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election, as well as their support of Assad in Syria and the ongoing war in Ukraine. The act increased sanction against Russia, while limiting the President’s ability to decrease sanctions without the approval of congress.
Despite the decision not to pronounce new sanctions, Monday the Trump administration released a list of 114 Russian politicians and 96 “oligarchs.” The list does not bear sanctions in and of itself, although a number of the listed individuals have already been sanctioned. The list is meant to “name-and-shame” potentially corrupt figures connected to Vladimir Putin.
Russia has also recently come under fire over allegations that Russian intelligence is aiding and abetting North Korean smuggling. North Korean coal exports have been almost entirely banned by UN sanctions, but last week multiple reports surfaced that North Korean ships are being allowed to dock in Russia and reload their coal onto Chinese ships to be sold to South Korea and Japan. Several Russian citizens were sanctioned last week by the Treasury Department in connection to North Korea.