The North Korea’s KCNA says Kim Hak-song is being held on ‘suspicion of hostile acts against the state’.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has announced the establishment of a Korea Mission Center dedicated to dealing with North Korea.
The mission centre will use all the resources of the CIA and other US intelligence agencies to address ballistic and nuclear missile threats posed by North Korea, the CIA said on Wednesday.
“Creating the Korea Mission Center allows us to more purposefully integrate and direct CIA efforts against the serious threats to the United States and its allies emanating from North Korea,” CIA Director Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
The Korea Mission Center is the CIA’s 11th mission centre. The centres operate as stand-alone, issue-focused entities that utilise and integrate all CIA elements and resources.
Other centres include Mission Center for Africa, Mission Center for Counterintelligence, Mission Center for Counterterrorism and Mission Center for Near East.
Creating a mission centre focused on one country, as opposed to an entire region or continent indicates that the administration of President Trump is taking a more forceful approach against North Korea.
“Just as the threats facing our nation are dynamic, so too must the CIA continue to evolve to address them,” CIA spokesperson Heather Fritz Horniak said.
|CIA’s other Mission Centers|
North Korea has conducted a series of ballistic missile tests in recent weeks, prompting sharp rebuke from the Trump administration.
Trump warned of “major conflict” with North Korea after the tests.
Tensions between the US and North Korea rose especially after a tense exchange between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which prompted President Trump to announce the deployment last March of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence system (THAAD) in South Korea.
But a former CIA official downplayed the importance of establishing a mission centre dedicated to North Korea, calling the move “cosmetic”.
Former CIA case officer Bob Baer told Al Jazeera that the CIA does not know what to do with nuclear-armed North Korea.
He said the CIA does not appear to want to, for example, jam North Korean communications or drop weapons on it. Short of that, this move is just “huffing and puffing”, Baer added.
He stressed that North Korea could never achieve parity with the US so it uses its nuclear weapons card as blackmail to get concessions or to force the US into negotiations.
Baer suggested that the US should leverage China‘s influence with North Korea and let it rein its nuclear-armed neighbour.
Follow Ali Younes on twitter @ali_reports