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CIA forms new unit to watch Pyongyang

Leader of new Korea Mission Center has not been identified
May 12,2017
The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency said Wednesday it established a Korea Mission Center to harness its “full resources, capabilities and authorities” in addressing North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile threats.

Seasoned officers from across the agency will gather to bring their “expertise and creativity” to bear against the North Korea target, the CIA said in a statement.

The leader of the mission center has been identified as a veteran CIA operations officer, though the agency did not name him or her.

Mike Pompeo, who visited South Korea earlier this month on an unannounced trip, said the establishment of the center allowed the CIA to “more purposefully integrate and direct CIA efforts” against serious threats to the U.S. and its allies posed by the North.

“It also reflects the dynamism and agility that the CIA brings to evolving national security challenges,” Pompeo added.

Pompeo touched down in Seoul on April 29 and left three days later after meeting with Lee Byung-ho, director of the National Intelligence Service, South Korea’s equivalent to the CIA, National Defense Minister Han Min-koo and also Kim Kwan-jin, national security adviser at the Blue House.

Yun Byung-se, head of South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, later said in a press briefing that Pompeo’s visit highlighted how gravely the Donald Trump administration thought of the North Korean menace.

The establishment of the Korea Mission Center comes as Washington is weighing several options to deal with North Korea’s missile and nuclear development program, adding more sanctions against the Kim Jong-un regime and pushing Beijing to rein in its ally, while on the sidelines, offering a bilateral summit with hefty conditions.

Last week, North Korea’s Ministry of State Security, its equivalent to the CIA, accused the CIA and NIS of infiltrating the North to commit “state-sponsored terrorism” against Kim Jong-un, trying to assassinate him with a chemical weapon.

The ministry threatened to carry out a “Korean-style anti-terrorist attack” to “sweep away” the CIA and NIS.

The ministry claimed that a North Korean was hired to commit “bomb terrorism” targeting Kim during a high-profile event at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun or at a military parade, but was caught before pulling off the mission.

The South Korean government adamantly denied the account, while several officials called it a “make-believe story” by the State Security Ministry to regain traction after getting on the wrong side of Kim for giving false reports.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]