USA officials says confrontation with North Korea not imminent

Guest commentary: Laying out a way forward on North Korea

Mike Pompeo, the Central Intelligence Agency director, offered assurances on Sunday "nothing imminent" was happening in the USA standoff with nuclear-armed North Korea but said he wouldn't be surprised if Pyongyang conducted another missile test.

The CIA director said President Trump was doing something "very effective" by communicating clearly to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un - and to the world, including China and others who can influence the outcome of the nuclear standoff.

But he stressed that the U.S.is pursuing "a very determined diplomatic effort" led by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that's coupled with new financial sanctions to dissuade North Korean leader Kim Jong Un from further provocations.

Pompeo said he could not get into specifics but said that North Korea's progress has gone on for decades.

"I've seen no intelligence to indicate we're in that place today", Pompeo said. North Korean officials in turn have accused the USA leader of driving the Korean peninsula to the brink of nuclear war.

"He's pretty isolated today for the first time", he said.

The top USA military officer, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, is traveling in Asia and expected to meet with leaders in South Korea, Japan and China.

"In fact, this administration has done a fine job of not drawing red lines that we're not prepared to enforce", Pompeo added.

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.

Trump has pushed China to pressure North Korea to halt a nuclear weapons program that is nearing the capability of targeting the United States. North Korea's achievements have significantly escalated the threat.

As the USA and North Korea traded jabs, many observers began to fear that the two countries might find themselves in a war that Secretary of Defense James Mattis previously said would be "catastrophic" and "tragic on an unbelievable scale".

Pompeo also added that the goal, from the administration's standpoint, remains a "denuclearized" Korean peninsula.

He also clarified the president's warnings, noting that the US does not want war with North Korea but will take action to defend itself if attacked.

The tough talk capped a week in which long-standing tensions between the countries risked abruptly boiling over.

The North then came out with a threat to lob four intermediate-range "Hwasong-12" missiles near Guam, a tiny US territory some 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometers) from the North's capital, Pyongyang.

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