CIA chief 'hopeful' for change in North Korea

CIA chief 'hopeful' for change in North Korea
© Greg Nash

CIA Director Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoCIA not inviting reporters to annual holiday party: report Overnight Cybersecurity: WH details rules for handling hacking tools | UK claims Russia behind widespread hacks | Bill to save cyber diplomacy office advances America's decision on North Korea hinges on Trump's success in Asia MORE said on Thursday he is confident the intelligence community will develop strategies to "separate" the government of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un from the country's rapidly advancing weapons programs. 

"It would be a great thing to denuclearize the peninsula, to get those weapons off of that, but the thing that is most dangerous about it is the character who holds the control over them today," Pompeo told The New York Times's Bret Stephens at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.

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"So from the administration's perspective, the most important thing we can do is separate those two. Right? Separate capacity and someone who might well have intent and break those two apart."

Pompeo's remarks were among the Trump administration's most direct comments yet about the North Korean leader.

While he did not explicitly raise the possibility of change in Pyongyang, the CIA director said he believes the North Korean people "would love to see" Kim removed from power, and that he remained hopeful the U.S. would figure out a way.

"I'm hopeful that we will find a way to separate that regime from this system," Pompeo said. "The North Korean people, I'm sure, are lovely people and would love to see him go."

Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonThe Hill's 12:30 Report Trump will declare North Korea a state sponsor of terror Tillerson condemns violence against LGBT people on Transgender Day of Remembrance MORE said at a United Nations Security Council meeting in April that the U.S. does not intend to pursue leadership change in North Korea.

"Our goal is not regime change, nor do we desire to threaten the North Korean people or destabilize the Asia Pacific region," Tillerson said.

Tensions have heightened between the U.S. and North Korea in recent months as Pyongyang accelerates the pace of its ballistic missile tests. The government successfully tested for the first time earlier this month an intercontinental ballistic missile, believed to be capable of striking parts of the U.S.